Is Diet Coke Dabbling in Drug References in Its Ads?

'You're On' campaign riding high

What has Diet Coke been snorting?

In the way the tagline, "You're on," and logo are positioned, the brand's new ads seem to refer to drug use—appearing to spell out the phrase "You're on coke."

The campaign, by Droga5 in New York, has been building considerable, um, buzz in the media and from consumers flocking to social media with mocking comments. (Gothamist has collected some prime tweets along these, er, lines.) And while one imagines no such connection to cocaine is implied, you can understand the snarky reaction.

A commercial shows various people downing the product to get psyched up before speeches and performances. Taylor Swift takes a—how shall I put this?—hit backstage, then says, "Great. Let's go." Hey, that's nothing like drugs at all. In The New York Times, a Coca-Cola exec says the ads show how the drink provides "uplift for those moments when you really need to be on." Hey, that's nothing like drugs at all.

The campaign's wording is so obvious, I'd bet client and agency went this route on purpose. The ads are certainly getting extra attention, and it's not so offensive as to cause the brand harm. Plus, there's plausible deniability.

And here's a sobering thought: "Drogas" is Spanish for drugs!

I reached out to Coke and Droga5 for clarification. Oddly, they weren't on (no response yet), but I'll update this post with any uplifting comments they choose to provide.

UPDATE: Coca-Cola responds: "This advertising is one part of the new campaign for Diet Coke, which is called 'You're On.' It celebrates ambitious young achievers from all walks of life and reminds them that Diet Coke is there to support them in the moments when they are at their best. Every single day, young people around the world experience 'You're On' moments big and small. It could be a job interview or a national TV interview, a first date or a final exam, a presentation to your boss or a performance in front of thousands. The Diet Coke logo is the centerpiece of the ad campaign. Diet Coke in no way endorses or supports the use of any illegal substance."

Photo below: @david_j_roth

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.