Barbara Lippert’s Critique

Ah, summer, when a young boy’s thoughts turn to … Christina Aguilera’s hair extensions and the way they dangle dangerously close to her minihips?

Actually, these new spots for Coke’s big summer pop-top promotion are low-key but entertaining in a deadpan comic way. They fit into the make-fun-of-the-hype-but-hype-we-must giveaway genre. Aside from the trips and the million bucks, the really big prize is the chance to hang with Christina backstage on her concert tour and the set of her next music video.

In the spot, a teenaged boy sits in his room and talks about how well he and Christina hit it off when he won the chance to meet her. (“I think she may be in love with me,” he says.) The joke is that he faints every time he gets anywhere near the pop goddess.

“The story shows just how approachable Christina is,” according to the press release, “and how much she really enjoys and appreciates her fans.” Well, she seems game enough, but not exactly approachable.

Of course, we’ve got to give Aguilera credit for taking risks, especially when it comes to using stoplight colors in her hair. (Currently, there’s red on the bottom and a touch of green on top.) Her face looks oddly plasticized, though, radiating a combination mermaid, muppet, Morgan Fairchild and Max Headroom effect.

Perhaps the sense of dislocation from reality is heightened by showing the teen diva inviting the boy to hit the snack table with her. (I think she has an olive on her plate.) But the setup—she’s 20 and the kid a few years younger—is sweet. That’s in contrast to the sleazy Lolita effect achieved in Britney Spears’ Pepsi spot.

The rest of the ads are well executed and pretty amusing, too. Unfortunately, in the promo area, we’ve seen similar ideas, for Sprite and a Discover card trip to Universal Studios.

In the previous Sprite contest spot—Sprite is part of the Coke family and included in this promo—a kid is in his bedroom at his computer, surrounded by cool gadgets and stuff in boxes. His mother comes in and screams that he’ll never get anywhere by sitting in his room drinking Sprite.

Her point made, she leaves, oblivious to what her son has won and unaware of the attractive foam packing peanuts stuck to her derriere.

The out-of-touch Mom and Dad theme continues in the Discover spots, in which, while sitting with their beyond-mortified, eye-rolling kids, the earnest parents detail the incredible learning experiences the family has had on vacation: immersing themselves in seminude, foam-paddle-wielding gestalt therapy, delivering a calf on a dude ranch, etc.

The humor in the promos suggests another campaign by Leo Burnett for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. Those spots were directed by Christopher Guest of Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman fame.

These new Coke promo ads also attest to the fact that Traktor, the directorial team of Swedes, is getting much more adept at producing deadpan Americana.

For example, the commercial showing the clueless kid who wins a million dollars and claims he’s being “smart” about his money, but loads up on gold and boats, is funny. But my fave features a family of quiet readers—Mom, Dad and three kiddies—all with noses buried in print.

Mom explains, “Before we won the family vacation, we were stuck in our routines.” Then she and Dad go on to recount the fun they had in the private beach house and in the boat. (They are shown reading.) “It’s just so nice to do something different,” Mom explains, proving that each happy family is oblivious in its own way.