Coca-Cola’s “It’s Beautiful” Super Bowl ad

I know I have a backlog of about a dozen posts I’ve been meaning to write, but on this one I feel the need to strike while the iron is hot. It’s about this 60-second television commercial aired during the Super Bowl. In case you haven’t seen it:

Now, I know it’s primarily a right-wing crowd that’s ticked off about this commercial. I’m mostly left-wing but lean right on a few issues. It’s a no-brainer that we as a country benefit when everyone knows at least one common language. Now, the question then becomes what language should that be?

The Declaration of Independence was written in English. The Constitution was written in English. All of our laws are written in English. Our road signs are written in English. The majority of our broadcast media are in English. If instructions for anything are written in only one language, that language is English. It is technically true that English is not the official language of this country, but it really should be named as such by law.

And this is why I think Coke’s ad fails as a piece of advertising. I am fine with showing different nationalities, different colors of skin, even those of differing sexual preferences. But if we can’t even talk to random people in the same language, how much unity do we really have? I have lost count of the number of times I’ve asked a stranger something like “what time is it?” or “which bus was that that passed by?” and got “sorry no speak English” as my response. So when Coca-Cola shows “America the Beautiful” being sung in different languages, and it is hard to tell if parts of the video were even shot in America (at 0:28 Coke bottles are shown which very well could be the Mexican version not necessarily imported into the US, at 0:35 all the signage is in Chinese and there’s nothing to clearly show that this is actually the US). I hope this isn’t the case, but if in fact any portion of this commercial was actually shot outside of the US, it was inappropriate to use “America the Beautiful.”

I’m not even sure what they are trying to communicate. It’s a video montage with a song whose melody I recognize, but most of which is sung in the language NotEnglish. (I say it this way not to offend, but in the same way that John Polstra used the term “the programming language NotC” to refer to a different and less-known computer programming language.) About the only things I can recognize are the Coca-Cola logo and some obviously American landmarks like the Grand Canyon. If there’s a message of unity here, I missed it.

The advertising would have been improved by showing the singers on camera–different nationalities, skin colors, sexual preferences, what have you–singing “America The Beautiful” in English and only in English. The video as aired could remain the main video shown on screen, with the singers in an inset, or the video as aired could be replaced with the singers entirely. Now the commercial becomes a more obvious promotion of unity behind a common language–and a common soft drink.

I’m disappointed as a Coca-Cola customer that they dropped the ball this badly on such a big stage. I’m not going to boycott Coke, but I’ll definitely be drinking a lot more Dr. Pepper over the next couple of months than I otherwise would have.

Failing to deliver: a ripoff by AT&T

Mark Brimm recently wrote a blog entry about AT&T and its failure to deliver on purchased search engine advertising:

So here’s the scoop. Basically, this all started back in about July of 2009, when I decided I would give AT&T’s online search a try. It started out kind of innocuously. $75/mo or so for their lowest level of service. And I mean low…I got no traffic whatsoever (unless you count a few clicks while speaking to the account rep on the phone!). Then I decided maybe I was just being cheap, so I slowly inched the account power up a notch little by little until I’m being billed for $300+/mo for a listing at the very top on a page that comes up for a loose group of very targeted local keyword phrases that my account rep assures me is being showered with over 1,000 visits per month.


Eventually, this became a billing issue. I told them I wanted out. They said that I had agreed to a year contract. I said I didn’t get what was stated in the contract. They said they’d send it to collections and it would then go on my credit report. I told them I’d file with the BBB, tell the world my story, and sue them if they did. They said “that’s fine”.

Maybe the representative didn’t grasp the concept of negative publicity. It’s kind of a sad state of affairs when it is typical for the “peasant level” employees of a company to be able to dismiss three threats (BBB, negative PR, and legal) with a simple “that’s fine.” At the least, a competent phone rep would at least escalate the call at this point. (Though, at some companies it’s policy to immediately disconnect the caller upon a legal threat and only communicate via surface mail from that point on. To be fair about it, at the point where Mark felt this necessary, he wasn’t losing much by this treatment, even if that was policy at AT&T which apparently it is not.)

Either way, AT&T didn’t deliver on the contract, and a contract works both ways. Most contracts involve payment for services rendered: customer pays, company provides services and/or goods. Services or goods are not due if payment is not received, and likewise, payment is not due if the provider fails to provide service/goods. It’s the latter part that companies like AT&T forget rather conveniently.

According to the comments on the post, Mark’s not the only one with trouble with AT&T’s advertising department; others recorded their tales of woe alongside his. This doesn’t bode well for the undoubtedly busy public relations department at AT&T. It also looks bad when Mark’s account representative is difficult to contact, which I will concede may be unintentional. But under the circumstances, it’s still damned suspicious.

An e-mail too good not to show off

I recently responded to an e-mail from an advertising bureau, asking if I was offering advertising opportunities on this blog right here.

I sent this reply, suspecting this might well be thinly veiled spam, but offering the benefit of the doubt that it might actually have been hand-typed and hand-sent.

This may or may not apply to the direction this blog will take in the future; it certainly applies to the way I’ve been posting to this blog over most of the past year. Of course, by the time some of you see this in the archives, it’ll no longer be at but at some other domain name I’m still deciding on.

The original text portion of my reply follows. I simply felt it too good not to post and share. Comments are welcome, as always.

Most of the brutal honesty in my blog comes from the fact I do not have to worry about annoying sponsors. Were I to consider monetizing this blog, it would be done in other ways such as merchandise sales.

I also have serious doubts that advertising will “enhance [my] online users experience” as you put it. The people I have talked to seem to indicate they are more annoyed than attracted by ads.

Thanks for your interest, but I simply don’t see selling ads on as viable.

Misadventures in Web advertising

I recently found two great examples of how not to advertise on the Web in an entry in Jeff Balke’s blog. I’m reminded instantly of the advice of Eric Bohlman from 1999:

“Catch them while they’re getting up to [use the bathroom]” simply doesn’t work on the Web.

I think both Macy’s and (sadly) the Houston Texans could learn a lot from this decade-old post, as true today as it was then.

I remember a far more recent example: FOX’s just plain obnoxious ads for Prison Break which aired during the 2005 MLB playoffs, including the World Series. I may have tuned in to watch the show; the repetitive air raid siren made sure I never would. It’s one thing to name the halftime show or some silly highlight feature after the highest bidder; that just makes a few nostalgic for the days when we had simply “the halftime show” or “the play of the game.” But a TV network is degrading its product (a sports telecast) by shoving obnoxious promos for its other shows on top of that product.