One thing the advertising industry can be thankful for this holiday season is Coca-Cola’s decision to air its first television commercial 55 years ago on a Thanksgiving special featuring Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, helping turn marketers on to the power of television. At a time when TV viewers were few and far between, Coke struggled to come up with an approach to the new medium under its longtime agency, The D’Arcy Agency in St. Louis, according to the Coca-Cola Advertising home page of the Library of Congress. Some of the early ads featured stop-motion photography that depicted various objects, such as a hotdog or popcorn, appearing to move around without outside assistance. The soft-drink purveyor must have been pleased with its first-TV ad, because it jumped at a chance to sponsor a Walt Disney Special on Christmas Day the same year. Although D’Arcy had represented the company since 1906, TV proved a demanding medium that led to a switch to McCann-Erickson in 1956. Showing its class and its skill in print media, D’Arcy ran an ad in The Wall Street Journal showing a Coke being passed from one hand to another with the headline: “We hand it on with pride.” McCann went on to create a library of legendary ads, but one that might resonate these days is a campaign from 1974-76 called “Look Up, America,” an effort to counteract the country’s downbeat mood as it approached its bicentennial.
—Posted by Richard Williamson