See What Would Happen If Soda Companies Kept It Real in Commercials

Where are the attractive young people singing about sipping ‘sweet, sweet acid’?
Feb 1, 2016·
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

If you watched the Mad Men finale last spring, you might remember that the last shot featuring Don Draper is one in which he’s meditating on a hilltop in 1971 with a bunch of hippies. Viewers find out that Draper subsequently used the experience as inspiration for “Hilltop,” the Coca-Cola ad that featured the iconic jingle “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.”

After the finale aired, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner called the ad “the greatest commercial ever made.” But what would commercials be like if Coca-Cola and other soda bottlers ditched the fantasy of attractive 20-somethings crooning that they’d “like to buy the world a Coke” and got honest about their products?

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The result might be something like the parody ad above from humor website Cracked. The clip features a narrator named Roger, who extols the many virtues of drinking fictional Horton’s Cola, which he frankly describes as “wet sugar with bubbles in it.”

“My competitors and I have spent decades and billions of dollars to slowly make the general public associate our product with fun, happiness, togetherness, and, in some cases, entire holidays—which thankfully happen regularly. Forever,” says Roger. Toss in a dose of caramel flavoring and some artificial sweeteners and, um, drink some totally refreshing liquid candy.

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The satirical video encourages consumers to “buy some for your kids.” But thanks to health concerns, nowadays fewer Americans are putting a two-liter or 12-pack into their shopping carts. The most recent Gallup consumption habits poll found that 62 percent of Americans say they’re ditching diet soda, and 61 percent of Americans say they’re staying away from regular soda.

“I think the bloom is basically off the rose when it comes to the soda industry’s reputation,” Jeff Cronin, director of communications at the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, wrote in an email to TakePart. “More people are connecting the dots between soda consumption and diseases like diabetes and heart disease, and the industry will likely be the target of more satire and more ridicule.”

However, Cronin wrote that he would have liked this clip from Cracked “a bit better if the brand weren’t clearly fictional, but perhaps a real one.”

Indeed, last year the Washington, D.C.–based health advocacy group released its own campaign directly targeting Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” ad campaign and custom bottle website. The “Share a Coke With Obesity” video encouraged viewers to request bottles for the “names” Obesity, Diabetes, and Tooth Decay.

Still, watching Roger smile as he talks about drinking “sweet, sweet acid” is more creepy than attractive, which means we probably shouldn’t expect an ad featuring attractive hipsters (hippies are so 1971) singing about Horton’s Cola anytime soon.