What That Coke Commercial Means: An Overly Cynical Take

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 13.266% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So Coke aired a Super Bowl commercial featuring America the Beautiful sung in a furrin language, and having a gay couple holding hands.
America, predictably, went berserk.
So let me just briefly outline what this does not mean:
1)  That Coke loves gays and immigrants.  Coke loves money.  Coke has determined that there is more money to be gotten by charming the young folks and non-whites than there is to be gotten by courting old, dying white dudes.
2)  That Coke is now on the side of goodness.   No.  Coke is on the side of profit.  If there was money to be made by appealing to Rush Limbaugh’s crowd, you bet your ass Coke would do it.  In fact, Coke did do it.
3)  That Coke is brave.  Marginally.  Coke is positioning itself at the head of a demographic swell, and it’s taking the position of pissing off current customers.  But this is about as brave as Coke introducing New Coke, which is to say they took a risk for more money, and if they’re lucky it’ll pay off.
4)  That Coke is anything more than a money-hungry conglomerate of interests that wants to sell you high-fructose-laced caffeinated water in massive amounts.
What this does mean is that we’re reaching a tipping point where companies like Oreo and Cheerios are starting to decide that hey, this is the wave, and we can encourage brand loyalty in teenagers by positioning ourselves as progressive.  If we make them feel like we’re on their side, we will win them for life, in much the same way Marlboro and Budweiser did by touting an older and now slightly embarrassing lifestyle.
And I’m glad of that.  And it takes a certain number of gay-and minority-friendly folks on the inside of each company to push commercials like these to the top, so there’s a certain amount of warm fuzzies I get when this happens, yes.
But what it really means is that  “companies will do anything that’s popular.”  That benefits me now, as I’d like more gay-friendly messages and minority-friendly messages.  But don’t fall in love, guys.  Don’t believe the hype.  This is coldly and cynically designed to get you talking about Coke – and yes, it’s even worked on me.  That’s how insidious it is.
(Also see: My wife’s take on things.)

1 Comment

  1. LG
    Feb 9, 2014

    I find this cynical view comforting. It’s pleasant to think that this ostensibly controversial content is actually designed to appeal to the new mainstream and therefore indicates an inevitable future trend.
    Your wife has a good point also, I do think that this is an “any publicity is good publicity” scenario for Coke (and Cheerios, etc.) and that controversial ads like this will become a trend that counts on conflicting ideas and vitriol to get viral attention.

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