Simply titled, “It’s Beautiful,” the above Coca-Cola advertisement aired during the 2014 Superbowl. Sung in seven different languages, weaving in and out of English, the tune “America the Beautiful” plays in the background while the commercial does an expansive sweep across the nation, featuring urban metropolises as well as vast, rural landscapes. Within its short sixty seconds, the fully loaded commercial features a plethora of rich signifiers. Pick-up trucks, Stetson hats, and men riding horses along a backdrop of mountains splattered with greenery signify a “Midwestern” theme. Similarly, street-dancers and streets lined with lights are signifiers that signify city life such as that found in New York, L.A. or Chicago.
Furthermore, the commercial features people of various ethnicities and religions, denoted by the spectrum in skin color and facial features, which we come to understand connotatively as Hispanic or African-American. Similarly, in the case of two men wearing kippahs, Judaism is the implicit meaning. With all these quick cuts and potent signs, the advertisement references a long list of stories and lifestyles in a matter of seconds. Perhaps the most important signifiers, the recognizable glass bottle shape and the red metal bottle caps with white font, signify a refreshing drink, and more specifically, an American beverage.
While the Coca-Cola ad doesn’t seem necessarily self-aware in the sense that it doesn’t mock itself, to an alienated spectator who views commercials with cynicism it also doesn’t read as an advertisement. The product receives little on-air time, and seems to be promoting unity and an appreciation of the country, rather than the actual product. The advertisement’s target audience is a broad one, as men and women of different ages and races can all enjoy and appreciate the commercial and the actual product. While Coca-Cola isn’t singling out the youth and attempting to position their product as “cool,” their inclusion of young adults surfing or driving and enjoying Coke suggests it’s a product the youth can and should enjoy. The ideas the advertisement places forward regarding conformity may be interpreted in a variety of ways, some of which are highly contradictory. The bulk of essential ‘Americana’ images consist of family barbeques a la the “Fourth of July,” hot dogs and apple pie, along with red-white-and-blue-spangled everything. This is a highly uniform, one-dimensional version of America which also usually implies Caucasian, cookie-cutter families with blonde hair and khaki pants. On the other hand, the word may conjure up the idea of diversity and immigration. America is well-known for its welcoming attitude regarding different cultures and races. The ad wants people from every nook and cranny of America to avoid conformity, express one’s unique culture and do so by buying their product.
From an ideological perspective, while the ad aims to showcase the diverse nature of America, it disguises some of the cold and unfortunate realities of the USA. Different races are shown, but the ad illusively ignores the fact that many people who immigrate to America are a) minorities and, b) struggling to make a living and obtain the highly coveted American Dream. The ad also reflects Goldman and Papson’s logic of capital, as Coca-Cola links purchase of their soda with feelings of unity, camaraderie and overall positivity. Furthermore, the ad’s usage of scenes such as families roller-blading and embracing, and children camping out or going to the movies provide a normative vision of our world and the loving, social relationships between one another. On an ideological level, the ad’s goal is simply to emphasis America’s diversity as an attractive and positive feature while positioning Coca-Cola as a product that can unite consumers over this idea.
With the new approach brought forward by the Creative Revolution, the reality comprehended by advertisers suggests people don’t mind being advertised to if ads are ambitious and interesting, and viewers can enjoy and understand the process. This ad’s heartwarming, emotional appeal achieves this goal, seeking to instill a feeling of happiness. The message Coke displays is a positive one, simply saying America is a beautiful place for all types of people, and their product, Coca-Cola celebrates that and brings people together. The idea of the mass culture critique is relevant here, too, as Coca-Cola’s concentration on a wide range of people says consumers can come from anywhere and be anyone while still enjoying Coca-Cola. Furthermore, the ad’s content and style prove the Creative Revolution’s shift from hard facts to originality and an artistic approach. The actual product receives little air-time, but glimpses of sips from the Coke bottle are interspersed within the scene cuts, including a cute tidbit of children diving in a pool for Coke bottle caps, almost as if they’re fishing for treasure. Emphasis on the product’s taste, price and other features, is replaced by focusing on the experience that comes from the product, demonstrating one of the goals of advertisements made after the Creative Revolution.
– Victoria O.