Creative: Barbara Lippert’s Critique – Retrograde

There are signs of intelligent life in the new Coke campaign. Deep thoughts are embedded throughout, suggesting the essential Cokeosity of the drinking experience: the delicate aromatics, the sparkle, the bubbles. There’s even a reminder of the first time you got knocked out by the fizz.
Coke has decided to stake its future on the bubbles, and I like that. I’m all for effervescence.
The problem with the spots is not the strategy. It’s the execution. First, in several the music is execrable. Only the humanoids in the spots can bop to it; otherwise, it’s so grating you hear it through your fillings. Thanks to digital effects, the bottle in “Message in a Bottle” blasts open and we get bubbles and dance scenes.
The spots are smartly engineered to allow different music and dance modules–from classical to salsa to hip-hop–that are tailored to the tastes of local markets. But like a giant relic of a convertible couch, these commercials do the job, conversionwise, but look dated and dense. There’s a little problem with “urban” stereotypes, too. When Coke tries to get down with the homeboys, you want to call the NAACP.
The “Message” spots include some of these urban youths break dancing. Break dancing? Is this 1986? Or am I so out of it that break dancing is already back and this time it’s super-edgy and ahead of the curve? The hip-hop and house-music segments–complete with a DJ scratchin’ and rappin’–are also painfully fake.
And that hot salsa thing is about as refreshing as Ricky Martin shaking his bonbon for the billionth time. Similarly, in “Bounce,” we get a view from behind the smoke and footlights of generic performer legs. It’s supposed to be Backstreet Boyish, but it smells of Thriller.
I have no problem with “Polar Bears 2000.” There is nothing more poignant and human than their immense, primordial shapes and lumbering moves–so open, honest and anti-Jenny Craig. I never tire of seeing their winsome emotions or moves.
In this spot, Mama Bear nudges her two babies awake to watch the millennial celebrations. She pushes the caffeinated sugar water on her cubs, of course, to help them stay up.
Another digitally animated spot, “Bright World,” shows a Coke-guzzling sun greeting the world, starting with the Sydney Opera House and working its way east.
“New Worlds” uses the clever digital animation process that brought us the movie Antz. A futuristic spaceship lands, releasing a towering bottle of Coke on the barren landscape. A green alien appears and an immense straw is rammed down his throat. Soon, the place is overrun with aliens drinking from the Mother Bottle. But in these days of Coca-Cola trying to be a “friendlier, more amenable” company, does it really want to suggest this sort of hyper-colonizing mind control?
Speaking of colonies, one of the better-produced spots of the 10, brought to us by Leo Burnett, is set in Ouarzazat, a remote part of Morocco without electricity. The kid actors, cast from real villagers, are natural and wonderful, speaking in their language, Dhurba. We get subtitles.
But no matter how cute these kids are, and how wonderful this new ritual is (Mean Joe Greene meets The Gods Must Be Crazy), you gotta feel there are more important things to deliver to this unwired village than a freezer of Coke. The subtitles are easy to parody: “Hey friend, why waste your money on food or water when you can experience Coke?”
In these days of anti-McDonald’s demonstrations in France, negative Coke sentiment in Belgium and the violence associated with the WTO meetings in Seattle, is this the way to go? K