Coca-Cola cheaps out on Super Bowl ad, goes with pre-game show

It’s the end of an era. When football fans tune into Super Bowl LIII there will be no Coca-Cola ad to watch. If the fans skip the pre-game show, that is. This year Coca-Cola has decided to forego the exorbitant advertising fees to run an ad during the game and instead will run a 60-second spot during the pre-game show, just before the coin toss opens the big show. Clever, right? Maybe.

Instead of pointing to fiscal conservatism, though, the company postures its decision to make it all about a message of unity. I know what you are thinking. Ugh. Another virtue-signaling corporation. The message will say, “Together is better.” The company is using an Andy Warhol quote to drive it home.

Coca-Cola intends to run a 60-second commercial just before kickoff that burnishes themes of diversity and inclusion, says Stuart Kronauge, senior vice president of marketing for Coca-Cola North America and president of its sparking beverages business unit. “We have a long history of using the country’s biggest advertising stage to share a message of unity and positivity, especially at times when our nation feels divided,” she said in a statement. “This year, we decided to place our ad just before the national anthem as Americans come together in their living rooms to remind everyone that ‘together is beautiful.”

The new commercial, crafted by the independent ad agency Wieden + Kennedy, will feature original animated characters reminding viewers that the company’s flagship drink is for all consumers. It’s inspired by a 1975 quote from artist Andy Warhol, which will be used as the closing line in the commercial: “We all have different hearts and hands; heads holding various views. Don’t you see? Different is beautiful. And, together is beautiful, too.”

Well, at least it isn’t Maya Angelou.

I don’t blame Coke for not wanting to fork over the big bucks needed to run an ad during the game. It’s still not exactly cheap to run one during the pre-game but it is a bit easier on the corporate checkbook. The Super Bowl ads this year will run between $5.1M to $5.3M while the pre-game rates are “from hundreds of thousands of dollars to a few million, depending on their proximity to the start of the annual pigskin contest”, according to Variety. Sounds like Coke will pay the few million since its ad will be closest to the game’s start.

While Coca-Cola stresses that their message is one of diversity and unity, it is not a political one. That’s nonsense. Especially in the current environment, “the Year of the Woman”, diversity is at the forefront of politics. Look at Democratic politics. Racial, ethnic, and gender diversity is at the top of identity politics. Toss in a woman in a hijab and you’re all set. In 2014 Coca-Cola used children in its ad to do that. This is exactly what their commercials are known for – remember the one about teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony? They can call it whatever they want to call it but the message is the same. Their best commercial, in my opinion, was the 1980 Mean Joe Greene commercial when he throws a football jersey to the young fan. It was much more passive yet still sticks with those of us old enough to remember it.

Coca-Cola has employed a similar strategy in the recent past. Last year, during NBC’s broadcast of Super Bowl LII, the beverage giant ran a spot featuring people from different races, nationalities and geographic regions. In one scene, a person in a wheelchair and a helmet takes part in a daredevil athletic competition. A poem read during the commercial played up the fact that anyone might enjoy a Coca-Cola: “We all have different looks and loves / likes and dislikes, too. / But there’s a Coke for we and us / and there’s a Coke for you.” In 2014, Coca-Cola got attention for running a Super Bowl commercial with children singing “America the Beautiful” in many languages. The spot included people from various walks of life. Some wore cowboy hats. Some wore hijabs. The commercial is believed to be the first Super Bowl ad to show same-sex parents.

Pepsi is sponsoring the half-time show. After trying to shame singers from accepting an invitation to perform during the half-time show, specifically due to the hyper-politicization of the game (thanks, Colin Kaepernick), it may be interesting to see if Pepsi gets any blowback for its sponsorship. Do enough SJW football fans drink Pepsi to make a difference? Coca-Cola chose to place its ad right before the National Anthem to drive home its point. The anthem is usually a feel-good moment and Coca-Cola wants to capitalize on that.

This piece in Ad Age explains that Coke uses the same agency as Nike did with the Kaepernick ad campaign.

Coke’s animated spot is by Wieden & Kennedy Portland, the same agency that made Nike’s ad last year starring Kaepernick. Coke’s ad is not making a political statement but instead looks to tout the beverage as something enjoyed by everyone, no matter their race, status or beliefs. The spot features an original poem that is inspired by quotes from Andy Warhol’s 1975 book, “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol,” in which he states that “a Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking.”

The tone keeps with Coke’s tradition of trying to push for higher ideals during the Super Bowl. Last year’s “Wonder of Us” Super Bowl ad used the gender-neutral “them” to refer to a non-binary person. The 2018 ad was backed by an original poem written by Wieden & Kennedy copywriter Becca Wadlinger, who also penned the script for this year’s spot.

A smaller role in advertising this year during the Super Bowl is a bit unusual, too, given the fact that the game will be played in Atlanta, the home of Coke. Something that the late Andrew Breitbart addressed remains true today – politics is downstream from culture. The left has known this for years and uses it to its advantage. Advertisers sending cultural messages know it, too.

I’ll leave you with the company’s tweet that drives home this year’s message.

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