Monday, April 18, 2011

A Coke and a Smile (Part 2 of 2)

The updated "I'd like to teach the world to sing" Coca Cola commercial shot in Italy only broadcast once...during the SuperBowl in 1990), but it is still considered “one of the most-loved ads of all time, and the idea of bringing back the singers with a new generation delighted the audience--and may have made them feel old.” (3D, a reunion, 2008).Photo credit: "Hilltop. The Coca-Cola Company. The Coca-Cola Company. 24 Apr. 2007 <>. "


In 1990, Coca-Cola produced a commercial called “Hilltop Runion,” an updated version of the 1971 legendary “Hilltop” ad featuring the song “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” that is still renowned today.  The updated spot featured several of the original 1971 cast along with their children and like its predecessor, it was also about sharing, families and world peace.  The spot only aired once on broadcast television (during the Super Bowl XXIV
The original and the updated Coca-Cola ads are good examples of how media can combine social good with seamless capitalism.  The Hilltop singers have Cokes in their hand as a replacement symbol for candles, evoking a feeling that by drinking the “real thing,” Coca-Cola, we will all be saved and united in peace. 

The placement of the 1990 commercial was thoughtfully broadcast in the optimal context of the Super Bowl XXIV.  What better placement for cognitive memorability and impact could there be than that?   After all, the Super Bowl is one of the most watched programs worldwide and attracts large gatherings of families and friends to commune together and watch commercials—er, I mean football.

In contrast, what if the “Hilltop Reunion” had run in the middle of a science fiction show like “Battlestar Galactica”?  Would it have had such a global and emotional impact on its viewers?  This one strategic ad placement for Coca-Cola lead to a global, rippling word-of-mouth effect that is similar to today’s viral impact of a YouTube video, only without the benefit of the Internet and today’s interactive, participatory culture.

Context is still everything, and the impact of the symbiotic relationship a medium can have with its content hasn’t changed.  The message of a bottle of Coca-Cola being held in the hands of singing adults and children is less about the product itself—the content—and more about the positive change in public attitude that the commercial engenders:  Love and happiness is a joyous, worldwide experience.  It also happens to provide a subliminal positive rub on the brand identity for a well-established product (aka happiness sells).

Regardless of the era, it is still the medium itself and not the content it carries (whether it be a Coca-Cola TV commercial or a political upsurge on Twitter) that can still play an important role in society, not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself. 


3D, a reunion and the Big Game - Coca-Cola Conversations | (2008, January 30). Coca-Cola Conversations. Retrieved April 11, 2011, from
“The Hilltop Song.” (1971). YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Retrieved March 19, 2011, from

Pink, D. (2006). A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

Turner, Mark (1998). The Literary Mind: The Origins of Thought and Language. USA: Oxford University Press.


This is the 1990 Coca Cola Hilltop commercial that reunites the cast of the 1971 commercial, only this time they also bring the next generation-their children along with them!  (


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