Coca-Cola. A cultural icon. One of the world’s most beloved brands. The original King of Pop (sorry, MJ). It’s been documented that ‘Coca-Cola’ is the second most recognised term in the world, behind ‘okay’.
That’s a pretty huge achievement for what started out as a humble soft drink company, selling nine drinks a day back in 1896.
Their formula for success? It’s all in the brand, baby! And that brand has been fueled by its best ad campaigns down through the decades. Though I’m sure the caffeine and sugar helped, too.
Print and TV commercials have been their playground for over a hundred years, with more recent journeys into social and PR stunts. Coca-Cola’s ads give us a masterclass in brand consistency. In creativity. And in the craft of connecting with the consumer. Which, in this case, is a whole lot of people with different backgrounds and experiences. From the likes of their 1971 ‘Hilltop’ to their latest ‘Masterpiece’, there’s something to be learned in each commercial.
With that said, let the masterclass (aka our roundup of Coca-Cola’s 16 best ads) begin.
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1. I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke (1971)
Coca-Cola has been a glass-half-full kind of brand for a long time. Spreading good vibes and bringing joy to consumers around the globe since day one. But the ‘70s brought about a hefty shift in their brand communication, tapping into something more than the product itself for the first time. And creating one of the most famous commercials ever.
The ad centers around the now iconic soundtrack, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”, sung on a hilltop in Italy by a group of people from every corner of the world. Bringing people together and spreading harmony during a very turbulent period.
This still gives me all the feels. Certainly one of the best video ads of all time.
2. Hey Kid, Catch! (1979)
Here’s an example of using advertising to tell a heartwarming story. One that shows Coca-Cola bringing people together. This ad was such a massive hit that it even went on to be featured in the Super Bowl ad slots of 1980. Check out our roundup of the best Super Bowl ads for more like this.
While it’s no secret that celebrity appearances in Super Bowl ads are well-trodden territory, this one hit different.
The ad starts with injured football all star, ‘Mean’ Joe Greene, limping into the dressing rooms during a big game when he’s stopped by a doting fan. He offers Joe his Coke and the mood lifts, ending happily for both with the very fitting slogan “Have a Coke and a smile”.
3. Northern Lights (1993)
This wouldn’t be a real roundup of Coca Cola’s best commercials without a nod to their creative Christmas classics. Of which there are many.
Frankly, Christmas references when it’s not December usually make me want to curl into a ball and roll away. But Coke’s “Always Coca-Cola” campaign feels just about tolerable, which is saying a lot.
This was the first in Coke’s long running collaboration with polar bears, which eventually led to their work with WWF. A partnership that lives on to this day.
4. Holidays are Coming (1995)
You knew it was coming!
Yes, I know I just said I hate Christmas outside of Christmas, but this Coca-Cola ad is a true classic that has aged like a fine piece of cheese.
The building anticipation.
All wrapped up with the tagline “Nothing lights up Christmas like Coca-Cola”.
Will there ever be a time when this Coca-Cola ad doesn’t reappear at Christmas? I hope not.
5. Happiness Factory (2006)
We take a leap in time with our next high-production pick.
This longer-than-usual animation video saw the Coca-Cola brand venturing into a new space and a new style of advertising. With the creativity and imagination in this one likened to that of a Doctor Seuss book. Pulling viewers from the sidewalk into a vending machine and taking them on a journey through the mythical process of making a bottle of Coke.
If this is what Coca-Cola can do for the creative mind, then fill up my refrigerator, please.
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6. Happiness Machines (2010)
Coke’s “Happiness Machines” marked a new venture for the soft drink brand, which saw them create their first ad to go viral online.
The idea started as a stunt activation. Placing a special Coke vending machine in a college cafeteria, which delivered “doses of happiness” to unassuming students.
The result was a piece of film content that warmed the hearts of many consumers across the world. This is a tried-and-tested marketing strategy today. But this was pretty innovative at the time. For more social media successes, see our best Instagram ads.
The wishful thinker in me hopes for something like this whenever I find myself going to a vending machine. It’s yet to happen, but I’m staying optimistic.
7. Reasons to Believe in a Better World (2011)
From environmental disasters to economic crashes, 2011 was a rollercoaster of a year. Except that rollercoaster only plunged down. Into darkness. At lightning speed.
Good vibes were a rarity and a lot of people had few reasons to even smile, let alone believe in a better world.
With a fresh creative take on the Oasis song, ‘Whatever’, and hopeful messages on-screen, this ad aimed to spread some much-needed positivity and hope for the future.
The core sentiment? For every bad thing that’s going on in the world, there are many more good.
The emotion builds with the ad, before ending with the humble-yet-powerful message, “There are reasons to believe in a better world”.
8. Share a Coke (2011- present)
The best creative ideas are always those that seem impossibly simple. Like this “Share a Coke” campaign.
It was first launched in Australia to help marketers raise brand awareness and create a more personal connection with consumers. By printing the country’s 150 most popular names onto millions of Coke bottles.
The idea created such a fizz that it quickly took off around the world, with countries putting their own twist on the campaign as a means of self-expression. China, for example, printed nicknames on their bottles instead of first names, providing even more of a personal touch.
The campaign still runs to this day, evolving all the time.
9. The World’s Cup (2014)
Question: What’s one thing that the Coca-Cola company and soccer have in common?
Answer: Their ability to bring people together.
Coca-Cola took this and ran with it during their sponsorship of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. To celebrate, this piece of creative work follows the lives of people across the world, and unites them with their love of the game into one captivating story.
For me, the best thing about this campaign is that the drink brand really put their money where their mouth was, bringing over one million fans from over 90 countries to the global event in Brazil that year.
Big, big fan.
10. Together (2015)
2015 saw the 100th anniversary of the Coke bottle we know and love.
To mark the occasion, the brand produced a full-integrated creative campaign and launched across press, outdoor, and film.
The creative concept uses iconic contours of the Coca-Cola bottles to celebrate peace and love. In a clever mashup of product and brand ethos, the campaign shows hands of all ages and ethnicities coming together to form the silhouette of the bottle.
Tom Farrell, the Global Design Director at creative advertising agency, Ogilvy Paris, commented that the idea came to him while he was brushing his teeth back in 2013. Adding even more weight to the claim that inspiration can strike in the most unexpected of places.
11. No Labels (2015)
For Ramadan 2015, Coca-Cola Middle East veered away from their usual light-hearted tone to produce a three minute film to focus on the serious problem of prejudice.
After the participants were made aware of their misconceptions, they were given a ‘labeless’ Coke can, featuring the message “Labels are for cans not for people”.
The campaign proved very successful, reaching over 20 million people on YouTube. Why? Because it resonated with consumers worldwide, no matter their background.
12. Try Not to Hear This (2019)
Oh, the satisfaction. This is one of my favorites for sure. Deceitfully simple, this multisensory campaign plays with sensation of sound. IN A PRINT AD.
It has everything a brilliant static visual ad needs:
- It’s based on the cracking insight that pretty much everyone and their pet rat is familiar with the sounds of a Coke drinking experience.
- It’s quick and easy to follow.
- It’s instantly recognisable and yet wonderfully fresh, all at the same time.
Like most brands, Coca-Cola’s ads are designed to make customers crave their product. And I don’t know about you, but this makes me want (need!) a Coke right now. Take my money. Take it all. You’ve earned it.
13. Stay Apart, Together (2020)
2020. While it was a year that brought us a whole load of angst and uncertainty (among other things), it did result in some pretty powerful creative work.
Coca-Cola used its billboard in Times Square to shed some positive light and encourage everyone to social distance in peak pandemic times. And the message spread across the world faster than you-know-what, thanks to social media.
Another stunningly simple idea, the letters used in their logo are separated out across the ad. Underneath reads a message that says, “Staying apart is the best way to stay united.”
Leave it to Coke to tackle a crisis and bring joy while staying effortlessly on brand.
14. Can You See a Coke Bottle? (2020)
This Coca-Cola ad was designed to make you look twice. Did it work?
These print adverts ran mostly across Europe and used optical illusion to play a trick on the brand’s many customers. Their logo and a line reading ‘Feel it’ replacing the bottle cap was all they needed.
Heck, when your brand is recognisable to pretty much everyone, why not have some fun with it?
I can just picture the grins on the Creatives’ faces when this idea was conjured up.
15. Para Todos (2021)
Here’s another example of Coke using their drink commercials to drive positive action during the pandemic.
Not long after the release of the print ad above, Coca-Cola Argentina launched a video commercial titled ‘Para Todos’. Meaning ‘For Everyone’.
The ad ended up being shown in 80 countries and translated into 20 languages. It focused on using every element of the Coke bottles and cans imaginable, to encourage unity and collective action during a time of worldwide isolation.
The level of detail and creativity here is truly mind blowing. It’s considered by many to be one of the brand’s strongest pieces of advertising to date.
16. Masterpiece (2023)
By now, it’s fair to say that Coca-Cola have consistently stayed ahead of the crowd when it comes to their creative advertising tactics. So, we’re wrapping up our masterclass of the 16 best Coca-Cola ads with their latest release, ‘Masterpiece’.
Conceptually, I don’t think this is the strongest Coca-Cola advertising commercial. But their use of new technologies to tell a story, along with the sheer craft, has got a lot of people talking. The brand campaign brings famous works of modern art to life, following a Coke bottle as it travels through each piece.
3D billboards and digital collectibles accompanied the hero film, placing the Coke brand firmly in the future. Nothing new there, then.
Five lessons you can take from Coca-Cola’s best ads
- Get personal. Find out what makes your target audience tick and let it inspire your advertising.
- Great ads reflect culture. But the best ads have the potential to shape it.
- When creating ads, have fun. It’s infectious.
- Consistency shouldn’t mean sameness.
- Simplicity wins every time.