A Coke for everyone, because Coke unifies people.
President Trump barely surfaced the content of this year’s Super Bowl—whether it be advertisements or social media—in dramatic contrast with 2017’s Super Bowl. The ads of 2017 felt political whether the companies were intentional or not. Some examples include Coke’s “America the Beautiful” ad, in which people of various demographics sing the patriotic U.S. song in different languages, Audi’s “Daughter” ad, which promotes the empowerment of women, and even the trailer for The Handmaid’s Tale, which seemed to explicitly target the Trump administration’s stance on reproductive rights.
Although the ads this year seemed to veer towards celebrity cameos and humor, some ads still quietly echoed the last year’s Super Bowl resistance against the Trump administration—including Coca Cola’s, once again. In its 60-second Super Bowl ad, Coca Cola presents a myriad of people from varying races, religions, gender identities, and sexual orientations, all enjoying some version of Coke. The narrators, who also change in every scene, represent the open and diverse peoples of the world. With this year’s tumult facing the repeal of DACA, the societal backlash against Trump’s anti-LGBTQ+ rights policies, and xenophobic violence, Coca Cola’s ad calls for a diverse representation of the world that rebels against the America of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign.
He, she, they—the ad begins with a spinning Coke bottle, glinting under a setting sun, as the narrators explain, “Here’s a coke for he, and she, and her, and me, and them.” The scenes switch between people with each “and” to address gender identity. We remember the political battles of fall 2017, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed President Obama’s memo, which interpreted the Civil Rights Act to include protection of transgender workers, and when the Justice Department’s amicus brief actively worked toward barring transgender people from the military. Coke’s nod to the multiplicity of genders and gender identities within its first few lines immediately highlights its support for an inclusive nation and world. Uplifting music and sunny camera shots overlay the opening scenes to appeal to a massive audience.
In fact, as the scenes progress to represent people of varying ethnicities, the ad speeds up the sentimental music, and the gorgeous camerawork features a variation between soft-focused suburban neighborhoods to a drama shot of craggy mountains. Here, the ad’s goal is to demonstrate the vast, unique experiences of different people. After all, “no feet have wandered where you’ve walked,” says the advertisement.
Although Coca Cola highlights our differences and diversity, Coca Cola’s underlying theme of everyone can enjoy a Coke extends beyond the company’s commercial product. From a black gymnast practicing in her high school, to a mother in a hijab playing bumper cars, to a cowboy and his daughter pointing to the stars, Coca Cola humanizes and unifies this diversity. Even when all these scenes are so different, all characters demonstrate the same human happiness.
“We all have different looks and loves, likes and dislikes, too,” says one narrator.
Not only is a diversity of backgrounds and identities beautiful, but differences in opinion and faith are wonderful, too. Here, Coca Cola plays upon its company image of the classic, American beverage that bridges variety of all types. Mundanity and sameness are boring according to the advertisement, and this point is evident through the shifting slices of American life that purposefully contrast with every scene before. The ad invites the viewer to embrace diversity by remarking, “There’s a Coke for you.”
While Coke featured its own products within the advertisement, much of the content commented little on the actual product itself—seemingly characteristic of many of the company’s ads. Instead, the company applies basic Coke values of universality, brotherhood, and happiness to the political context of the nation. When Coke spends a billion dollars on an ad with this kind of political jab toward the current administration, the company obviously is confident the majority of its audience will relate to this sentiment.
And Coke is not alone. With Toyota, T-Mobile and a select few others, though the political undercurrents of their advertisements are much quieter than the previous year, ads from Super Bowl 2018 still illustrate the mellifluous cooperation of capitalistic corporations, money, entertainment, and politics to not only sell products but to incite social change. Advertisements—especially Super Bowl advertisements—are the perfect venues for reaching a large, diverse American audience, and many of history’s best Super Bowl ads are those that comment on the current political climate.
Coke’s 2018 ad, a calm echo of last year’s rerun of its “America the Beautiful” campaign, pushes against the divisive attitudes of Trump’s administration to welcome diversity and variety while selling its classic drink.