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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Cola Turka Side of Life

Advertising is clearly one of the primary ways not only to sell a product, but as a means of selling a lifestyle and transforming culture. There is no longer a distinction: product is image and image is product.

Advertising just is culture and culture is advertising.

In 1971 Coke produced the "I'd like to teach the world to sing" commercial. As I understand, it is the most successful (or one of the most successful) ad campaigns ever. Though I am no expert on the history of marketing, this ad was a pioneer in abandoning the concept of blatantly selling the product and instead sold an idea: a better world; a world united in song. Oh, but a world also united in drinking Coke. (Ah, so they did not completely abandon the sale of the their product!)

In 2003 Cola Turka aired two very popular commercials with Chevy Chase. Certain elements in Turkey felt threatened by the invasion of American culture and products. Cola Turka seized the opportunity to sell its own cola and outwit the giant foreign mega-brands, Pepsi and Coke. The message of the ad? Cola Turka is not just another American-type cola. Whereas the other brands represented an import of American culture and threaten to Americanize the Turks, Turka Cola promises to Turkize the Americans! So, they used a famous American spokesman to pitch the idea.

Check out these two, highly successful Turkish ads for Cola Turka:

Either way one looks at it, the above ads represent the homogenized global culture now sponsored by ___________. I'm not here to make a value judgment, I think that there are opportunities and challenges. One positive potential outcome is that we can be united around being human beings and not by race, ethnic, or national distinctions. Of course, losing our distinctiveness also seems troubling.

In any case, go ahead and pop open a Cola Turka and celebrate diversity.


Crystal McCoomb said...

Oh yeah, like those clips could really sell anything. Maybe if they could help you speak Turkish, but only then. I went to Kosova two years ago (slightly Turkish since bordering Turkey) and can't recall drinking a single cola or coke of any kind. They're more into cappuccino and Fanta.
Advertising is a very powerful culture in and of itself. Probably one of the most powerful in the world. There are places in the world that have Coke, but have never heard of Christianity. Coca Cola's goal was to have their produce available to everyone in the world within a two mile radius and they made it happen. (You can get a coke in the middle of Africa). I wonder what the world would be like if Christianity was like that...

Melody said...

Mmmmm, Fanta. Now that an interesting phenomina, it's loved around the world (well, it's owned by coca-cola) but I've never seen it advertised.

Here's the thing though, both Coke and Fanta have different flavors in different countries/regions. Run on down to India and you can get Lychee Fanta (or maybe it’s China, I don’t recall, but Lychee is not my fav so I don’t get overly thrilled about it) and if you run down to the Mexican grocery you’ll get Coke made with cane juice (rather than high fructose corn syrup).

They’re trying to make the world a bunch of Coke drinkers, yes, but they’re far from trying to destroy diversity - they cater to it.

Incidentally, I think that the idea behind the "I'd like to teach the world to sing" commercial, was less about selling a united world and more about selling the idea that Coca-Cola wants a united world and that therefore if you want a united world you'll drink Coke.

Yes, it's selling a concept, but a concept that sells their product. The exchange is always most important, but if the company can keep you from seeing that and make you think that they're selling a concept/idealology...and humbly selling soft drinks to support that idealology...well that would be pretty clever, wouldn't it?

Emily said...

I like how the second Cola Turka commercial tries to capture the feel of the National Lampoons movies Chevy Chase was in.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Yes, Melody, clever indeed.

But I don't know that I would suggest that the Coca-cola people in 1971 were heartless bastards only trying to sell a product and manipulating our heartstrings for that purpose. How do I know? Maybe they were good, maybe they were evil? Or maybe something of both. I think most corporations are a complicated (and sometimes competing) mix of interests that are made up of a desire to change society into their vision of "a better world" and a desire to make money.

Google is a great example. They want to put all of the world's information online and make it free to all (or as free as it can be, in lieu of copyrights and intellectual rights). That's a noble goal, right? Sure. But they are also filthy rich, and they make shrewd business moves to consolidate their power and hold on the market. They have a vision for a better society, but they want to be the ones who profit from it.

So, the distinction between good and bad motives doesn't really hold for corporations any longer. There is no "good" corporation (ala the naive 1950s father-knows-best belief), but nor does it really make all that much sense anymore to talk in liberal terms about the "evil" corporation. After the dreams of the hippies crashed down on them, they all got jobs in the market place and many attempted to bring their new values to the corporation.

So, I think advertising is still manipulation, but whether it is manipulating us for "good" or for "evil" is anyone's guess these days. If corporations can sell a better world, then they will benefit when we all buy into it.

Therefore, I suggest that it is no longer possible for our world to improve, unless it is done through the manipulation of mass advertising.

Melody said...

Oh, I'm not suggesting that Coca-Cola (or any other company) is evil or heartless. I'm just noting
that they've only ever "sold" ideas that the masses have already bought into.

Back in the day all you needed was a pretty girl saying, "You should drink Coke" and since people already believed that, they would run out an buy a Coke. The market's slightly more competative today and they have to attatch their name to other things people already believe in, but they're selling what they've always sold - Coke.

Using your example, that 1971 ad campaign would not have worked in say, the 40s - I'd wager a great deal that in 40s there were posters of young Americans in uniform, laughing and drinking coke. Ideals were different, but Coke used them the same way.

It's really quite clever because someone else has already done all the work of making people believe in teh war or in global unity or in being cool. They just ride the wave.

Crystal McCoomb said...


Lychee Fanta?! Cool! Maybe I'll get to try some soon. Isn't part of your job advertising?

Crystal McCoomb said...


"Therefore, I suggest that it is no longer possible for our world to improve, unless it is done through the manipulation of mass advertising."

In most cases this is probably so, however is it possible to resist the manipulation. It would be stupid to solely base what you value on what is being massively advertised. Granted, when people don't have anything else to base their values on what they see and hear being pushed at them is most often what they end up having their lives revolve around.

The proposition that the world is no longer able to improve without manipulative mass advertising is a very sad one. On a commercial and political stand point this is probably true, but what of the Christian side? Are people really drawn to just the big names, or is it more the relationship. If Christianity is more about...

Crystal McCoomb said...

...what a person can get out of the religion than an actual relationship with God, then it's more like they're manipulating what has been set up by Him to see what they can get out of it. They're not seeing the Church as a means of authentic relationship and service, but only as what they think can satisfy all of their wants and desires.

Jonathan Erdman said...


I have a question for you: What made you come to the conclusion that Christianity is about a relationship with Christ?

Melody said...

Yeah, I design ads.

ktismatics said...

I noticed that the iconic Coca-Cola commercial starts out with the sincere hippie chick singing "I'd like to buy the world a home" -- thereby immediately establishing a capitalistic framework in which this ad and its product are embedded.

I think America would be a better place if all advertising was outlawed. The ban would apply to goods, services, politicians, the Army...

ktismatics said...

"I'd like to buy the world a Coke." Why doesn't Coke buy the world a Coke? They've got the expressed desire, the goods, and the distribution; they can pay wholesale... This ad isn't Coca Cola telling us about their product; they're projecting an image that the consumer will want to identify with: an earnest, attractive, loving, sociable, world-embracing, committed consumer of Coke.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ha, ha! Well, said, K!

It occurs to me that if you are seriously about banning advertising, you will have to raise a helluva lot of money to hire an army of Washington lobbyists. You will also have to change the public mindset of "advertising may be annoying sometimes, but it certainly should not be banned--in the name of free speech!" In other words, since you are working in a capitalistic framework, you will have to use capitalistic means to beat the system. But I support your efforts and will closely follow your progress!

Jonathan Erdman said...

Genesis 11:
1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
3 They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

Perhaps the new common language is that the whole world can be "spoken to" through the mass media of advertising.

Advertising seems to have the power to unite the world under a common tongue.

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."

8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel —because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Perhaps, Ktismatics, you are God's instrument for "confussing the language" of advertising. Perhaps your calling is to find a way to destroy the framework, ala Fight Club, perhaps????

Crystal McCoomb said...


What else could it be?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Well, throughout the history of Christianity the essence of faith in Christ has been defined very differently at different times.

Prior to the Reformation, there was heavy emphasis on baptism into the church and participation in the sacraments. After the Reformation, there is still an emphasis on these things, but there is a shift to believing the correct doctrine and also undergoing some sort of "regeneration."

I'm not suggesting that a relationship with Christ is not important, it is just that the emphasis on "having a relationship" with Christ seems to be more of a product of contemporary, 20th century Christianity. I find that this idea gets abused quite easily (again, that doesn't mean it is wrong). So, you find that many in our generation see Christ as just another friend. After all, if Christ is yet another relationship, then I can think of him as another add to myspace, rather than a God whose sacrificial love compels us into self-sacrifice, etc., etc.

Crystal McCoomb said...

Self-sacrifice would make an awful advertisement for Christianity, but since advertising according to you is only manipulation maybe that slogan would keep the yuppies away.

I said a relationship with God, not Christ(I know they're the same, but their positions are different). Christ made it possible for us to have a relationship with God through his sacrifice. If there is a shift of emphasis towards undergoing "regeneration" part of this is reconciliation and possible true fellowship with God.

daniel said...

That's the irony of diversity in these po-mo times driven by global commerce. Tower of Babel times for sure! Very astute, Jon.

ktismatics said...

I thought I put this comment here earlier today. If it fails to appear this time I'll know I've been spammed. That might be appropriate since I'm clearly off topic now, but you brought it up first...

Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

They should see somebody about dealing with this paranoid fear of the other.

The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."

He should see somebody about dealing with this paranoid fear of the other.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Just to clarify: I don't spam comments. Ever.

Sometimes I'll delete comments if they are clearly just spamming the site: i.e., selling viagra or something like that. But I don't delete intentional comments. I don't even use the word verification system. These are open forums. So much so, that many folks comment on the quality of the commentary at Theos Project over and above the quality of the posting!

Jonathan Erdman said...

I'm not sure God does therapy.

Who would you suggest he see??? And how would a therapist deal with God?

As a therapist, what would you do if God came to you to deal with his paranoia of the other?

ktismatics said...

I didn't really think you'd spammed me -- I'm pretty sure it was human error on my part.

I'll have to get back to you on offering therapy to the Big Other Himself. An intriguing concept though, n'est-ce pas?

Jonathan Erdman said...

oui Monsieur, intriguing indeed!