I’m going to come right out and say it: Coca-Cola’s advertising schemes have pushed my buttons for a long time. They use campy, happy-go-lucky ads to manipulate consumer mindsets about a product that’s far from beneficial to our physical or mental well-beings. And they get away with it.

But when we’re smart enough to recognize the thin veneer of scheming, this sort of marketing quickly backfires.

Coca-Cola certainly isn’t the only brand to do this sort of thing; I’m just using them as an example because they stick out like a sore thumb. Their new series of television spots has inspired my arguably relevant rant, and frankly it’s been a long time coming.

What they’ve done wrong

The message is too ambiguous: Coke introduces this vague connection between movement and happiness in the commercial we saw above. It features marionette characters performing rhythmic everyday activities to a song that’s pretty nonsensical in its own right.

“I was happy because I was celebrating” is the line that briefly backs the characters as they tip back bottles of Coke partway through the commercial. Otherwise it’s tough to see how this ad relates to the brand or their products in any way.

And while the theme is hazy, the connotations speak volumes. Moving on…

The cheerfulness is over the top: In the “Happiness is Movement” ad, we hear the words “happy” or “happiness” twelve times and see them five times in one minute. If this isn’t beating a dead horse, I don’t know what is.

Is it just me, or is Coca-Cola trying to shove something down our throats here? I think we’re supposed to feel happy when we watch this, and I think this happiness is supposed to translate to an enjoyable association with their product. But for me, the only sensation that surfaced could be equated to nails across a chalkboard.

Presenting obvious contradictions: I have to give the next ad kudos, because the messages are more concrete and digestible. But at the same time, one of these messages goes against everything their product really stands for.

The overarching theme of Coke’s new “Grandpa” ad is healthier living. At one point in the video, they encourage us to live more like our grandfathers did by moving more, eating well and taking it easy. That’s right – they blew up the words “eat well” in the middle of their ad. But I suppose eating well is different from drinking well, right?


It should go without saying that a healthy diet does not include routine intakes of refined sugars and artificial compounds. So why is this ad giving us the idea that it does? Active, healthy people don’t fuel themselves with soda – if they did, they wouldn’t be active or healthy. If you’ve ever climbed ten flights of stairs with a belly full of sugar water, you’re not going to feel so hot.

Hiding marketing efforts behind good will: This year’s earlier “Small World Machines” ad campaign set up identical vending machines in malls in Lahore, Pakistan and New Delhi, India. Each was equipped with a camera and large screen on which shoppers could see and interact with one another, facilitating the dispensing of free Coke upon cooperation.

A seemingly humanitarian effort like this is developed to take your mind off of what’s wrong with Coca-Cola’s product, giving us a heartwarming story of camaraderie and resolved differences. While this effort was trying to do a little something good for the strained relations between two nations, Coke has clearly taken advantage of people’s good will to get their name in the news and make a buck.

It’s also worth noting that Coke’s fancy vending machines are no longer there; they were only in place for three days to shoot the ad. So how much of a difference did they really make?

I think it was best said by Nancy Huehnergarth when she tweeted the day following the commercial’s release:

Coca-Cola promotion in India & Pakistan disguises itself as a humanitarian effort. But they’re just selling Coke: http://t.co/vmbdJoiy91

When you create misleading advertising and contradict the purpose that your products are there to serve, your customers are going to notice. If you’ve noticed and have something to add, let us know in the comments.