Why Coke's New C2 Commercials Don't Really See to It

By Published on .

Client: Coca-Cola's C2
Agency: Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York
Star Rating: 2

C2 will do fine.

The half-sugar/half-diet Coke is a product of and for the times. Provided there is still some shelf space left next to Pepsi

The C2 Rolling Stones ad is a good example of why marketers can't always get what they want, no matter how much they spend.
Twist, Code Red, Vanilla Coke and Diet Caffeine-Free Asparagus Coke, the mid-calorie cola will sell.

No particular thanks to the ad messages. Appropriately enough, half the TV advertising is adequate and half is not.

Opening barrage
The opening barrage consists of four spots, two overlaying the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and two atop a denatured adaptation of Queen's "I Want To Break Free." The first pair is satisfactory, at least in concept. Onscreen supers list, and the video dramatizes, various things you can't have: "You Can't Jump the Line, You Can't Stay Angry, You Can't Take Back What You Said, You Can't Choose Your Parents, You Can't Speed, You Can't Get a Break, You Can't Change the Weather."

But now, with C2, you can get what you want: "Half the carbs. Half the calories. All the great taste." Fine. We get it.

But the ads are still baffling. Two of the propositions, about parents and the weather, are factually correct. The two about line-jumping and speeding refer to permission; you're not allowed to do them, but you still can. The other examples are simply false. You can't stay angry? The hell you can't.

Why over-analyze?
You may say, why over-analyze breezy copy meant only to evoke the concept of unattainability? Answer: because each moment of cognitive dissonance invites the viewer to puzzle over the premise and miss, or dismiss, the larger point. How difficult would it have been for Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York, to cite the genuinely impossible? This is tens of millions of dollars being spent on sloppy writing.

That, by the way, is the better half of the campaign. The Queen-esque spots are more mystifying still. They show lots of folks throwing off the shackles of conformity to do what just feels right at the moment: bicycling down the office corridor, break-dancing in the lobby, hydrant swimming fully clothed, spewing produce all over the supermarket -- you know, the way folks are always itching to do. This to the following lyrics:

"I want to break free. I want to break free for the first time, and this time I know it's for real. I've got to break free. God knows, God knows I want to break free. Oh, how I want to be free, baby. Oh, how I want to be free."

Breaking free of what?
Just curious ... break free of what? Liberate yourself from whom? If the historical burden of a forced choice between diet or regular doesn't sound too onerous to you, the premise is ludicrously overstated. If the shackles of insufficient cola options do rise to the level of human-rights abuse, there is only one party to blame: the Coca-Cola Co.

That's not cognitive dissonance. It's creative negligence -- like the Bud spot that uses haunting lyrics from a Mystic song about ghetto kids who drink because they know they're going to die violently. How do these choices get made? Is nobody paying attention to meaning out there?

Unless advertisers wish to be half successful, someone ought to C2 that.

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