We're deep-diving into that Coke commercial—on 'Mad Men' and IRL
Stop reading this right now if you haven’t yet watched Mad Men‘s series finale, “Person to Person.” Not only was it an exceptional Mad Men episode, but it also wrapped up the stories for all of our favorite characters, from Peggy, to Pete, to Joan. Don Draper, though, got a little bit of a different ending seeing as his was paired with an iconic Coke commercial from the ’70s. Huh? What’s that about? So seriously, spoilers ahead, because we need to talk about the real-life history of that Coke commercial.
For starters, if anyone put money on the show ending with Don trapped at a commune after being abandoned by Stephanie Draper, you need to go Vegas right now, you guessing champ. Indeed, Don finds himself alone on a sea-side community, where he begins meditating. The last frame we see of him is a tiny little smile creep across his face, while the song, “I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke” plays in the background, before it leads into a vintage Coke commercial.
First of all, this is a real commercial for Coke from 1971
Mad Men loves it’s nods to history (ugh, or do I have to say “loved” because Mad Men is now over). Mad Men season 7B took place in 1970, so the use of this commercial is obviously a wink at what Don’s up to in the future. You know, engaging in more history-making, game-changing advertising. In real life, the ad was considered more than just a soft drink spot, but a moment when pop culture and politics converged to send a message of hope (through a can of soda, albeit).
McCann-Erickson made the ad IRL
It’s OK if you thought McCann-Erickson was a made up company just like Sterling Cooper. I did. I will admit that while I’ve been obsessed with Mad Men this whole time, I have not been obsessed with real life ad agencies.
But yeah, McCann-Erickson is real, and they were the company behind the Coke ad. So when Peggy tells Don over the phone that he could come back and work on the Coke campaign, that’s really something McCann was in the process of doing.
The real ad did emerge from a moment of revelation
The ad was actually designed by a McCann’s creative director, Bill Backer. Backer was traveling, and happened to be grounded due to bad weather. On Coke’s website, there’s little bit more history about how the commercial came to be, and it’s a really sweet story.
In the show, Don was haunted by Coke
That previous episode — the one where Don was at the motel — he found himself staring at a Coke machine for a very long time. Do you think he’s thinking about buying everyone he knows a Coke? Is this the first time he finds himself really, truly thinking about Coke… and then about singing?
The song came AFTER the ad
You probably know the song “I’d Like to Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” better than this Coke ad. But, the ad actually came first. The jingle, recorded by the New Seekers, was created expressly for the Coke commercial, but it became so popular—with radio stations fielding constant requests for the song—it was then re-recorded, with new lyrics, by the Hillside Singers. That just goes to show how insanely popular this ad really was.
The real commercial was almost a disaster
You try organizing a group of actors to meet on a hilltop and sing about Coke while using camera equipment from the 1970s. Also, during one of the shoots it rained. The commercial also cost $250,000. Don’t tell Joan that number.
But Don really went on to make this in a parallel Mad Men universe, right?
This is the Mad Men question we’ll be thinking about forever. Apparently, there’s some hot debate over whether Peggy or Don would go on to create the ad. But most people are settling on Don. My money’s on Don too. The events of “Person to Person” take place right around Halloween, 1970 (there are lots of ghosts and pumpkins on the walls of McCann). If Don ever leaves the West Coast and makes his way back home, yeah, I’d like to think that he dreamed up this groundbreaking spot. He’s Don Draper after all.
(Image via AMC, via MetroTimes)