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27 . 03 . 18

Coca-Cola’s new print advertisements are... pure poetry

Words by: Print Power
Wieden + Kennedy Portland make a very personal statement about inclusion, highlight the myriad advantages of print advertising – and help its integrated campaign generate billions of impressions.
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The power of print at a glance

  • Print advertisements deliver a message with a confidence that underlines the commitment behind it
  • W+K chose channels – including print media – that allowed it to speak to people from all different walks of life in slightly different ways
  • In a world of low-brow humour or celebrity glitz, a poem in print has standout. It can also be ‘steadfast in its optimism’ and ‘linguistically playful’

Advertising doesn’t get bigger than the annual Super Bowl spot. And when the brand in question is Coca-Cola, you can expect something extraordinary. But this year, there was an extra element of surprise: they launched their campaign with print marketing.

Continuing Coca-Cola’s long-held positioning as the voice of inclusion (from the classic 1971 ‘Buy the World a Coke’ campaign to the 2014 Super Bowl ad that saw ‘America The Beautiful’ sung in different languages), for 2018 agency Wieden + Kennedy Portland eschewed the brash in favour of something far more powerful: a poem.

‘The Wonder Of Us’ was written by W+K copywriter (and published poet) Becca Wadlinger as part of the wider 2018 marketing platform ‘A Coke For Everyone’ – and debuted on the back page of the Sunday Arts section of the New York Times.

Print has a static quality that TV, digital and online video cannot offer... The engagement these other media give is fleeting
Becca Wadlinger
Copywriter, W + K

“Now is a time when an inclusive and optimistic message is especially needed,” W+K group strategy director Nicole Brandell told Print Power. And while a filmed version conveying the diverse face of America aired in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LII, the print version was the epitome of a ‘soft launch’ done to perfection – there wasn’t even a Coke logo on the final page.

Extending the message across social media, anyone who liked the Super Bowl ad on Twitter received a response featuring a short poem and a gif.

The print advertisements appeared again the following day (this time bearing the Coca-Cola logo) on the back page of the USA Today sports section, while a video featuring the faces of Coke fans collected in social from all over America, set to the words of the poem, was screened in Times Square.

“Coca-Cola prides itself on inclusivity and its democratic appeal,” says Alex Barwick, group comms director. “So we chose channels that allowed us to speak to people from all different walks of life in slightly different ways: the biggest stage in advertising during the Super Bowl; in Times Square and in Coke's social channels; and in the newspapers where we could make a statement.’ 

In the newspaper advertisements, the poem was able to take centre stage: the intrinsic message of inclusivity emphasised by printing each line in a different person’s handwriting.

“Print has a static quality that TV, digital and online video cannot offer,” explains Wadlinger. “The engagement these other media give is fleeting. We felt that the first time Coca-Cola put this message into the world, it should be delivered with confidence that underlines the commitment behind it.”

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With more than 2.5 billion total impressions and over 500 press stories, it’s fair to say the campaign has been a success. “The most common themes of conversation [on social media] were about diversity, inclusion, and the optimistic tone of Coke's message. The poem also drew attention from press outlets in lifestyle media, including several LGBT publications, for the relevance and timely message,’ Barwick adds.

Most of all, by heralding a print media-first approach, the campaign proved that disruption can still come from seemingly traditional formats.

“It stood out against the lowbrow humour or glitzy celebrity of the Super Bowl advertising landscape,” claims Wadlinger. “While tackling the serious and divisive issue of equality in America’s current political climate, the poem was steadfast in its optimism and ability to be linguistically playful.”

This isn’t Wieden & Kennedy’s only cool print play of 2018. Check out the Old Spice-scented paper blazer in GQ.

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