Coke Looks to a Brighter Future in Campaign With George the Poet

72andSunny helps spin a web of words

Poetry is enjoying a moment of late, with spoken-word performances powering several Black Lives Matter campaigns and this Covid-19 spot from Walmart.

Now, Coca-Cola taps into the trend, as George the Poet spins an uplifting and forthright web of words to launch the soft drink giant's "Open Like Never Before" platform:

"Wait, stop," George begins, in Coke's first ad for the EMEA marketplace since April. "Who said we have to go back to normal, back to anything? What if the new normal ain't the normal we knew? And we can't just do what we'd formerly do? What if the big change is you and me? What if we choose to be … open?" 

As the spot progresses, everyday folks join in on various lines.

72andSunny Amsterdam shot the two-minute film remotely in five cities: London, Stockholm, Cape Town, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro. It follows Coke's 90-second take on the joy of cooking. Created with Anomaly, that earlier commercial hopped around the globe to show footage from home kitchens and dining rooms.

Both ads share common themes: Our lives have changed, perhaps forever, and we should welcome the positives and learn from the ups and downs (while enjoying a Coke, natch!). Optimistic but grounded, these films strike the right tone without seeming syrupy sweet or insincere.

In a more granular sense, "Open Like Never Before" supports the brand's retail partners such as hotels, bars and restaurants that face a challenging time as they reopen. Edits of the full-length spot are in the mix, along with out-of-home and digital elements.

"We knew from the start it couldn't sound like a brand manifesto," says 72andSunny deputy executive creative director Laura Visco. "We wanted to do something different, not another vignette ad. Each line has meaning and depth. We touched on different topics, such as parenthood, love, newly appreciated jobs, female leadership during the crisis, travel bans, etc. So, each scene is there to guide the viewer on what we mean by each line." (George's grandmother appears when he says, "I'll lead like a woman.")

During filming, improvisation was encouraged to make the experience feel more like—wait for it—the real thing.

"We were absolute beginners in the brand" and this represents 72andSunny's debut for Coke, notes agency creative director Emiliano Trierveiler. "Maybe that made us capable of things only the unbearably naive can do. Coincidentally, the work from Anomaly places the product in a very similar world, aiming for the same humble, honest yet filmic place we were looking for."

As for poetry's sudden renaissance in advertising, "it's a testimony to the power of the form, but also the great poets and lyricists who keep re-energizing and elevating the genre," says Trierveiler.

"Ads come and go. Poems stay," says Visco. "Poetry is one of the very first, purest, rawest forms of communication, and we thought it was exactly what was needed for this campaign. It touches a fiber in a way a 'normal' voiceover can't."

Here's George the Poet's full text:

"Who said we have to go back to normal, back to anything?
What if the new normal ain't the normal we knew?
And we can't just do what we'd formerly do?
What if the big change is you and me?
What if we choose to be … open?
And say…
I will never call my job unimportant again.
I'll never say that teacher's holidays are too long or that school is dry, and I can't wait to move on.
My ears are not my earphones. What if I listen?
What if I'm missing how bright your eyes glisten?
What if I just smile a bit. Travel less and love every mile of it?
What if I believe in the change my cooking, my music can do?
And what if I don't dance, but just for you I might give in to the rhythm soon.
What if I refuse to be a stranger in my own living room?
And I'll learn my lesson from a bad memory, and I'll keep social distance from bad energy.
And I'll prove that funny beats sexy any day. But I'm still cute, anyway.
What if my dreams never take the backseat again? What if I'm there whenever you need a friend.
What if I celebrate my skin, my body, my hair, every day! Even Mondays.
I won't waste another minute without you.
And I'll stand by every word I sayI'll make my vote count, make my voice heard today.
I'll never say this city has too many tourists again.
I'll lead, like a woman.
I'll have a family of dozens. Give my little nephews and nieces some cousins.
I'll stay right beside you. I'll say Yes, Yes, Yes, I do.
I'll never forget how much stronger we are together. I'll carry that in my heart forever.
We'll weather this storm.
So, I'll be…
Open like never before."

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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