Behind Berlin Cameron's "Real" Effort

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Coke: Courteney and David at home.
In the world of advertising, keeping things real isn't easy. But that's exactly what Berlin Cameron/Red Cell set out to do in the first round of its "Real" campaign for Coke Classic, which begins airing this week. "They were old and out of date and totally irrelevant to kids," says creative director Jason Peterson of Coca-Cola's dilemma. They played no part in their life. They played a part in my life, to 30-year-olds, but to an 18-year-old kid, they don't know what Coke stands for. They know the polar bears." And what Coke stands for, according to Peterson, is authenticity and real life.

While Berlin Cameron's campaign has several facets -- including a music video-style blowout starring R&B stars Common and Mya -- a large part of it centers on real life, even when celebrities are involved. A spot starring Courteney Cox Arquette and husband David Arquette features the pair at home, doing nothing really, and -- as Peterson points out -- Cox is wearing her own clothes. "It sounds easy, but it's a hard thing to do in the world of production," Peterson says of keeping the stylists at bay. But that kind of reality is what the agency was shooting for, especially in the portion of the campaign -- directed by Swedish collective Traktor -- that features members of the target market acting naturally. "Two of the print ads were shot at my high school," Peterson says. "We wanted everything to be as real and as authentic as possible." In one spot, in which roommates have a dispute over a care package, one of the actors appears to be wearing his t-shirt inside out. Peterson says he just showed up that way. In two commercials that have yet to break -- one in which a gang of teenage girls go out on a Friday night, and another in which a group of guys play video games -- the people were actually friends before they appeared in the campaign. "The important thing is for everything to seem natural, to make it feel like it really happened," Peterson says.

"We were trying to hold up a mirror to the way people really interact with Coke rather than inventing some new big thing for Coke interact with," explains ACD and copywriter Michelle Novella Sassa. "We couldn't just do a spot in which someone drinks a Coke as an afterthought," adds art director Matt Murphy. "Coke had to be the backbone." The forthcoming "Night Out" spot does this especially well. It begins with two carfuls of teenage girls ordering a bunch of Cokes and ends the same way. For a brand name that is literally synonymous with "soft drink" in many parts of the country, it rings true, and -- as Sassa puts it -- reclaims something "that only Coke can say." So far, a common criticism of the effort has been that it doesn't really jump off the screen, but Murphy says that's for challenger brands, not Coke. "There's a wit and a sensibility about them that doesn't say, 'Wow, look at this!' They're more confident than that."

But will it work, setting Coke apart from Pepsi as the brand that doesn't have to try so hard, the brand that doesn't need Britney, the brand that's just always there? "This is just the beginning," Peterson says. "Once we get rolling on this thing, I think it will get better and better."

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