Coke is making a diversity play in the Super Bowl this year, albeit with a lighter touch than its spot four years ago that was seen by some as taking a political stance by depicting "America is Beautiful" sung in a variety of languages, from Hindi to Senegalese.
The marketer puts an equal number of diverse faces in this year's ad for its flagship soda brand, which will run as a 60-second spot in the fourth quarter. But the ad by Wieden & Kennedy Portland, directed by Alma Har'el, will likely draw less of a polarizing reaction than the 2014 spot because it uses an original poem that is more about Coke than anything that could be seen as political. The ad, called "The Wonder of Us," markets the Cola as suitable for everyone, no matter a drinker's race, background or beliefs.
The Coke-as-unifier theme might be tough for some viewers to swallow in today's cynical age, especially as soda brands deal with sales headwinds amid health concerns. But Coke execs say the spot sticks with the brand's ethos of promoting optimism and inclusion. Indeed, strains of that approach are apparent in a lot of classic Coke advertising, including the "Hilltop" spot in which the brand famously sought to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.
Celebrating diversity and togetherness is "a message that we have communicated over time," says Brynn Bardacke, VP of content and creative excellence for Coca-Cola North America. "What's most important to us is that we communicate these values in a ways that are brought to life with some integrity based on the creative creative idea, and less about whether or not those things are going to create divisive talk."
The business strategy behind this year's ad is to promote different varieties of Coke for different kinds of people in all kinds of occasions. It underlies an approach Coke has taken in recent years to grow its customer base even as the soda category contracts. Executives have acknowledged that individual Coke buyers might drink less, but argue the brand can still grow by getting more people to try the product. The strategy involves selling smaller package sizes that might contain less liquid but are more profitable on a per-unit basis.
The Super Bowl ad sticks with the so-called "one-brand" strategy introduced in early 2016 under the "Taste the Feeling" campaign that plugs multiple Coke varieties, from regular Coke to Coke Zero, in single ads.
But this year, Coke is putting a new twist on the campaign, adding the line "Enjoy Yours," which emphasizes customization.
The poem in the spot includes lines like "there's a Coke for he, and she and her and me, and them." It was authored by Wieden & Kennedy copywriter Rebecca Wadlinger, who is a graduate of the University of Houston's PhD program in poetry, according to her website. Coke plans to run a text version of the poem in ads in USA Today and the New York Times. The copy in the print ads include verses displayed using the varying penmanship of employees at Coke and the agency.
Coke plans to plug the spot on social media by interacting with individual users. For instance, each person that clicks the heart symbol on a tweet when Coke posts the ad to Twitter will get a reply. Coke will run a seperate, more playful spot during the Olympics that shows characters on a street mural scaling buildings in search of a Coke. Another ad coming later in the year will promote Coke for tailgate parties.
Coca-Cola Co. is also planning to run a seperate spot in Sunday's game for Diet Coke, which recently began a new campaign promoting new flavors and slim cans. The marketer has run Super Bowl ads for 12 consecutive years.