Haddon Sundblom for Coca-Cola – The Man Who Painted Christmas



Though he was not the first artist to create an image of Santa Claus for Coca-Cola advertising, Haddon Sundblom’s version became the standard for other Santa renditions and is the most-enduring and widespread depiction of the holiday icon to this day. Coca-Cola’s Santa artworks would change the world’s perception of the North Pole’s most-famous resident forever and would be adopted by people around the world as the popular image of Santa.




In the 1920s, The Coca-Cola Company began to promote soft drink consumption for the winter holidays in U.S. magazines. The first Santa ads for Coke used a strict-looking Claus. In 1930, a Coca-Cola advertised with a painting by Fred Mizen, showing a department store Santa impersonator drinking a bottle of Coke amid a crowd of shoppers and their children.
Not long after, a magical transformation took place. Archie Lee, then the agency advertising executive for The Coca-Cola Company, wanted the next campaign to show a wholesome Santa as both realistic and symbolic. In 1931, the Company commissioned Haddon Sundblom, a Michigan-born illustrator and already a creative giant in the industry, to develop advertising images using Santa Claus. Sundblom envisioned this merry gentleman as an opposite of the meager look of department store Santa imitators from early 20th century America.



santa a

Sundblom turned to Clement Moore’s classic poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (better known as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”) for inspiration:

His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow

The ode’s description of the jolly old elf inspired Sundblom to create an image of Santa that was friendly, warm and human, a big change from the sometimes-harsh portrayals of Santa up to that time. He painted a perfectly lovable patron saint of the season, with a white beard flowing over a long red coat generously outlined with fur, an enormous brass buckle fastening a broad leather belt, and large, floppy boots.

Sundblom’s Santa was very different from the other Santa artworks: he radiated warmth, reminded people of their favorite grandfather, a friendly man who lived life to the fullest, loved children, enjoyed a little honest mischief, and feasted on snacks left out for him each Christmas Eve . Coca-Cola’s Christmas campaign featuring this captivating Santa ran year after year.





As distribution of Coca-Cola and its ads spread farther around the world, Sundblom’s Santa Claus became more memorable each season, in more and more countries. The character became so likable, The Coca-Cola Company and Haddon Sundblom struck a partnership that would last for decades. Over a span of 33 years, Haddon Sundblom painted imaginative versions of the “Coca-Cola Santa Claus” for for Coke advertising, retail displays and posters.

Sundblom initially modeled Santa’s smiling face after the cheerful looks of a friend, retired salesman Lou Prentiss. “He embodied all the features and spirit of Santa Claus,” Sundblom said. “The wrinkles in his face were happy wrinkles.” After Prentiss passed away, the Swedish-American Sundblom used his own face as the ongoing reference for painting the now-enduring, modern image of Santa Claus.


In 1951, Sundblom captured the Coca-Cola Santa “making his list and checking it twice.” However, the ads did not acknowledge that bad children existed and showed pages of good boys and girls only. Mischievous and magical, the Coca-Cola Santa was not above raiding the refrigerator during his annual rounds, stealing a playful moment with excited children and pets, or pausing to enjoy a Coca-Cola during stops on his one-night, worldwide trek. When air adventures became popular, Santa also could be caught playing with a toy helicopter around the tree.

Haddon Sundblom's santa








Haddon Sundblom passed away in 1976, but The Coca-Cola Company continues to use a variety of his timeless depictions of Saint Nicholas in holiday advertising, packaging and other promotional activities. The classic Coca-Cola Santa images created by Sundblom are as ubiquitous today as the character they represent and have become universally accepted as the personification of the patron saint of both children and Christmas.

As Joanna Berry, Lecturer in Marketing at Newcastle University Business School, explains: “Whilst Sundblom didn’t invent Santa as the jolly, white haired rotund old man we all now expect, he certainly did more than anyone to imprint that image onto our minds in relation to Coca-Cola in one of the most enduring brand images ever to have been created.”




A tribute to Haddon Sundblom from “Coke Side of Life” Campaign



Share a Coke Campaign – A Coca-Cola with your name on it

Coca-Cola is putting Aussies front and centre by printing people’s names on millions of bottles (for the first time ever) as a social invitation to find the names of friends and family and encourage them to connect and ‘Share a Coke’ together.

The launch of the new multi-million dollar summer campaign, Share a Coke, will see the country’s 150 most popular names appear on labels this summer, encouraging them to ‘Share a Coke’ with one another.
This is the first time Coca-Cola has made such a major change to its packaging and the first time any brand in Australia has launched this type of campaign.  Share a Coke with Matt, Josh, Luke, Rebecca, Nicole, Kate messaging was designed to encourage Aussies to connect with each other this summer. All the executions of the fully integrated ‘Share a Coke’ marketing campaign act as an invitation for consumers to share a bottle or can of Coke with someone they know, or want to know.

Says Lucie Austin, marketing director, Coca-Cola South Pacific: “We are using the power of the first name in a playful and social way to remind people of those in their lives they may have lost touch with or have yet to connect with.  We’ve put names on Coca-Cola bottles so consumers will have fun finding their friends and family members’ names and then enjoy sharing a Coke together.”

Coca-Cola Australia is betting on a viral hit for ‘Share a Coke’ via social media. Facebook fans can create their own Coke commercials with pictures from their Facebook albums, share a virtual Coke, and be eligible to win $50,000 to share with their friends. TV screens will be blanketed with 30-second ads promoting the campaign and inviting people to create and share their own Coke commercials on YouTube and Facebook.

We are using the power of the first name in a playful and social way to remind people of those in their lives they may have lost touch with or have yet to connect with,” said Austin.

Consumers are able to download one of 150 ‘name songs’, produced in partnership with Southern Cross Austereo via the Coca-Cola Australia Facebook page. And come December, the campaign will flip over to “share a Coke with Santa,” with cans rolling out featuring “Rudolph” and other reindeer names. It’s all part of the brand’s Open Happiness campaign, as Coke looks to deliver happiness and a unique brand experience … one personalized can at a time.

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Sydney
Digital Agency: Wunderman
PR: One Green Bean
Channel Planning: Naked Communications
Media: IKON Communications
Activation: Urban Communication
Year: 2010

Coca-Cola – I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke (the story of Hilltop)

In 1969, The Coca-Cola Company and its advertising agency, McCann-Erickson, ended their popular “Things Go Better With Coke” campaign, replacing it with a campaign that centered on the slogan “It’s the Real Thing.” Beginning with a hit song, the new campaign featured what proved to be one of the most popular ads ever created.

The story behind the song
The song “I’d Like to Buy The World a Coke” had its origins on January 18, 1971, in a fog. Bill Backer, the creative director on the Coca-Cola account for McCann-Erickson, was traveling to London to join two other songwriters, Billy Davis and Roger Cook, to write and arrange several radio commercials for The Coca-Cola Company that would be recorded by the popular singing group the New Seekers. As the plane approached Great Britain, heavy fog at London’s Heathrow Airport forced it to land instead at Shannon Airport, Ireland. The irate passengers were obliged to share rooms at the one hotel available in Shannon or to sleep at the airport. Tensions and tempers ran high.

The next morning, as the passengers gathered in the airport coffee shop awaiting clearance to fly, Backer noticed that several who had been among the most irate were now laughing and sharing stories over bottles of Coke. As Backer himself recalled in his book The Care and Feeding of Ideas:

In that moment . . . began to see a bottle of Coca-Cola as more than a drink. . . . began to see the familiar words, “Let’s have a Coke,” as . . . actually a subtle way of saying, “Let’s keep each other company for a little while.” And  knew they were being said all over the world as sat there in Ireland. So that was the basic idea: to see Coke not as it was originally designed to be—a liquid refresher—but as a tiny bit of commonality between all peoples, a universally liked formula that would help to keep them company for a few minutes.

Backer’s flight never did reach London. Heathrow Airport was still fogged in, so the passengers were redirected to Liverpool and bussed to London, arriving around midnight. At his hotel, Backer immediately met with Billy Davis and Roger Cook, finding that they had completed one song and were working on a second as they prepared to meet the New Seekers’ musical arranger the next day. Backer told them he thought they should work through the night on an idea he had had: “I could see and hear a song that treated the whole world as if it were a person—a person the singer would like to help and get to know. I’m not sure how the lyric should start, but I know the last line.” With that he pulled out the paper napkin on which he had scribbled the line, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.”

The three members of the writing team that night each brought a different perspective to their task. Billy Davis, of McCann-Erickson, had toured as a member of the singing group the Four Tops and had written several songs for the powerful and popular Motown music production organization. Roger Cook, a native of Bristol, England, had teamed with Roger Greenaway to write several 1960s pop standards including “You’ve Got Your Troubles” and “Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress).” Bill Backer was from Charleston, South Carolina, and had written the jingle “Things Go Better with Coke” as well as the jingle for “The Real Thing” campaign.

Appropriately, then, each contributed something different to the song they wrote together that night. Davis provided the core idea for the opening line, that everyone needs a home. Backer gave it the same pattern as the line he’d written, so that it became “I’d like to build the world a home.” And perhaps because this was, after all, the late 1960s, the three decided that the home should be furnished “with love.” Cook might have drawn on British folksong imagery when he contributed the line “Grow apple trees and honey bees, and snow white turtle doves,” which Backer and Davis at first thought too grand but eventually accepted for its poetic quality. Next, Backer penned a variation of the opening line: “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.” Coming full circle, the last line expressed the song’s original idea: “I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.”

The melody was based on a Roger Cook-Roger Greenaway song that Cook and Davis reworked to incorporate the melody used for the campaign slogan “It’s the Real Thing.” This allowed them to weave the updated slogan “It’s the real thing, Coke is what the world wants today” into the new song’s harmonizing voice parts. This was the result:

I’d like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love,

Grow apple trees and honey bees, and snow white turtle doves.

I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,

I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.

It’s the real thing, Coke is what the world wants today.

The next day, Backer, Cook, and Davis presented the lyrics and melody they had created during their all-night brainstorming session to David Mackay, the arranger for the New Seekers, with instructions to make his arrangement warm and appealing but not too cute. It was immediately decided that the ad should begin with New Seekers vocalist Eve Graham in order to have a woman initiate the message. And after trying out several versions in which the New Seekers attempted to sing the song as a typical advertising jingle, Backer and Davis convinced them to relax and use their own folk/pop style instead. Several weeks later, on February 12, 1971, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” was shipped to radio stations throughout the United States.

It promptly flopped. The Coca-Cola bottlers hated the ad and most refused to buy airtime for it. The few times the ad was played, the public paid no attention. Bill Backer’s idea that Coke connected people appeared to be dead.

Backer persuaded McCann to convince Coca-Cola executives that the ad was still viable but needed a visual dimension. His approach succeeded: the company eventually approved more than $250,000 for filming, at the time one of the largest budgets ever devoted to a television commercial. Backer then spent weeks canvassing the McCann creative staff for ideas, until Harvey Gabor, a young art director, proposed that the song be treated for television as a “First United Chorus of the World.” He envisioned a group of young people from all nations, in clothing representing their nationalities, singing the song on a green hillside. Gabor’s idea prevailed, and McCann prepared to shoot the commercial.

Producing the ad, however, proved to be one of the most challenging projects in the agency’s history. What kept the project alive was belief in the strength of the ad’s basic message, that Coca-Cola is a bond connecting people to one another.


The Shooting
Because London had been the song’s starting point, the ad’s creators decided that the “green hill” of its setting should be the storied cliffs of Dover on England’s southern coast. By March, 1971, a McCann production crew including Billy Davis, Harvey Gabor, and agency producer Phil Messina traveled with photographer/director Haskell Wexler to England to begin work. The chorus, they decided, would consist of several thousand British school children and would feature sixty-five principals who would be seen at close range. The children were cast and rehearsed “lip synching” moving their lips silently as though they were singing—to the New Seekers rendition of the song. Filming was set to begin on April 8, but three days of continuous rain, with more forecast, forced postponements. The McCann staff decided to move the shoot to Rome, which promised a more favorable climate.

In Italy, the producers had to cast a new group of children by searching schools and youth hostels. One English singer, the “head girl,” was brought to Italy to reprise her role. Production was to begin at 7:30 on the appointed morning with close-up shots of the sixty-five new principal singers in the flattering morning light. Unfortunately, it rained that morning for the first time in weeks. When the rain cleared in the afternoon, the leads were filmed singing the song while the “extra” children waited. Finally, late in the day, some twelve hundred children were spaced out on the top of the hill for the climactic shot from a helicopter. With light fading after only a few takes, the children broke ranks and began running down the hill to get more Coke from the truck carrying the props.

When the film was developed there were some unpleasant surprises. The zoom lens used for the close shots was faulty: every frame was out of focus. Additionally, the light levels on the helicopter shots were too low. The lead female singer then informed the crew that she had just been married and was going on her honeymoon and would be unavailable for any additional filming. McCann had now used its entire budget waiting for the rain to end in England and generating unusable footage in Rome.

To keep the ad alive, the McCann production crew went back to the drawing board. They cut the number of children in the youth chorus from twelve hundred to five hundred and began the search for a new female lead. They filled the ranks of the chorus by contacting the foreign embassies in Rome and drawing from their residents. As principals, they selected some forty young people between the ages of fifteen and nineteen. And when they spotted Linda Neary, a British governess living in Rome, walking down the street pushing a baby carriage, they decided she looked perfect for the part of the female lead. Two days before shooting was scheduled to begin, Neary agreed to take the part and the cast was set.

A new local film company, Roma Films, was contracted to film the commercial. Billy Davis rehearsed the young people lip synching to the New Seekers’ recording, and filming began on a different hillside the following day. Roma Films changed the strategy that had been used for the earlier shooting, filming the larger group shots first as Davis conducted the chorus. The aerial views showing the entire group from the vantage point of a helicopter were filmed next, while the tight close-ups were actually filmed at a racetrack near Rome.


The Commercial
The television ad “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” was released first in Europe, where it garnered only a tepid response. It was then released in the U.S. in July, 1971, and the response was immediate and dramatic. By November of that year, Coca-Cola and its bottlers had received more than a hundred thousand letters about the ad. At that time the demand for the song was so great that many people were calling radio stations and asking them to play the commercial. Clearly, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” had struck a chord deeper than the normal response to the advertisement of a commercial product, and Billy Davis asked Bill Backer to rewrite the lyrics without the references to Coke.

Because the New Seekers were initially unavailable to record the new version, a group calling itself the Hillside Singers recorded it with a country-and-western flavor and released it as a single. When the New Seekers began an American tour several weeks latter, they re-recorded the new lyrics and released a second single. Both version sold well in fact, at one point, the New Seekers version was listed among the top ten songs on the American pop music charts while the Hillside Singers version was number thirteen. Such successes were repeated around the world as the ad’s popularity expanded. Recordings of the song and versions of the sheet music appeared in a variety of languages to fill an ever-increasing demand.

“I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” has had a lasting connection with the viewing public. Advertising surveys consistently identify it as one of the best commercials of all time, and the sheet music continues to sell more than thirty years after the song was written. Such is the power of television advertising that through the enduring popularity of this ad, at least, Coke has borne out something of Backer’s ambitious claims for it, becoming a common connection among people.


Behind the scenes

– Hilltop” is the first historical ad ever to be restored in High Definition (HD). It can still be viewed by the public as it was donated to the Library of Congress in Washington DC in 2000.

– The international cast included actors from more than 20 countries.

– The opening scene was shot at a horse racetrack outside of Rome forcing unusual camera angles during the opening scene as the director tried to avoid having telephone wires in the background of the shots; the rest of the commercial was shot on the hilltop.

– Within 10 days of the U.S. release of “Hilltop,” The Coca-Cola Company received 10,000 letters from consumers thanking the Company for the message in the ad. Consumers also called television stations asking when the commercial was scheduled to air.

– The song “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” was written in less than 24 hours.

– The cast did not actualy sing “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” but rather lip-synced to a New Seekers recording

Interview with Bill Backer
Interview conducted with Bill Backer about his role in creating the famous Coca-Cola ad, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.” Backer co-composed the ad with Billy Davis, Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook in January 1971. Backer was the creative director for McCann Erickson when the ad was made. The Coca-Cola Archives interviewed Backer in 2007.


The Christmas Version
In the mid-1970s, another version of the commercial was filmed for the holiday season. This reworking featured the same song, but showed the group at night, with each person holding a lit white candle. In the final zoom-out crane shot, only the candle flames remain visible, forming a triangle reminiscent of a Christmas Tree; this impression is cemented by a Coke-bottle logo superimposed at the top of the “tree”, and the words “Happy Holidays from your Coca-Cola bottler”below. This version was reused for many years during the holiday season.


The Hilltop Reunion
In 1990, a follow-up to this commercial, called “Hilltop Reunion”, aired during coverage of Super Bowl XXIV. It featured the original singers (now adults) and their children, and culminated in a medley of this song and the then-current “Can’t Beat the Real Thing” jingle.


NASCAR Sprint Cup
In 2010, Coca-Cola once again used the song in a television commercial featuring the entire line of its sponsored NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers. The commercial included the drivers singing the song while driving in a race. The following year, information on how many dollars it would take “to buy the world a Coke” was given in a commercial featuring the red silhouette of a Coke bottle and the melody of the song.


British band Oasis were sued after their recording “Shakermaker” borrowed its melody and some lyrics directly; they were forced to change their composition. Oasis tribute band NoWaySis released a cover of  “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing”, entering the British charts at No.27 in 1996.


In 2007, Campaign magazine called it “one of the best-loved and most influential ads in TV history” It served as a milestone—the first instance of the recording industry’s involvement with advertising.Marketing analysts have noted Coca-Cola’s strategy of marrying the idea of happiness and universal love of the product illustrated by the song.

Advertising Agency: McCann-Erickson, USA
Creative Director: Bill Backer
Art Director: Harvey Gabor
Director: Roberto Malenotti
Agency Producer: Phil Messina
Music: Billy Davis, Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway, Bill Backer

Coca-Cola (1998/2010) – Modern Print Ads

Coca-Cola Italia – BLIND BOTTLE

Advertising Agency: Leo Burnett, Milan
Creative Director: Fabrizio Russo
Copywriter: Maria Paola di Stefano
Art Director:Sandro Olivieri
Photographer: Studio Neon
Year: 1998

Coca-Cola Classic – SEALS/PENGUIN

Advertising Agency: Publicis Conseil
Creative Director: Olivier Desmettre
Art Director: Fabrice Delacourt
Photographer: Jeal-Noel Leblanc Bontemps
Year: 1999

Coca-Cola Brazil – TRUCK/HYDRANT

Advertising Agency: McCann Erikson Brazil
Creative Director: Luiz Nogueira
Copywriter: Monica Maligo
Art Director: Jose Luiz Vaz
Photographer: Mauro Risch
Year: 1999

Coca-Cola India – BARCODE

Advertising Agency: Leo Burnett India
Creative Director: KV Sridhar
Art Director:KV Sridhar
Year: 1999

Coca-Cola India – GLASSES

Advertising Agency: Leo Burnett India
Creative Director: Agnello Dias
Copywriter: SM Talha
Art Director: Vijay Kartik
Photographer: Prased Naik
Year: 2001

Coca-Cola New Zealand – ENJOY Campaign

Advertising Agency: Publicis Mojo, New Zealand
Creative Director: Laclhan Mcpherson
Copywriter: Seymour Pope
Art Director: Laclhan Mcpherson
Photographer/Illustrator: Kane Mcpherson/Mike Shepherd
Year: 2001


Advertising Agency: El Laboratorio, Spain
Creative Director: Carlos Holemans/Eduard  Farran
Art Director: Armanda Carbonell
Photographer: Sara Zorraquino
Year: 2002


Advertising Agency: McCann Erickson Polska
Creative Director: Damir Brajdic
Copywriter: Katarzyna Orseszek-Korobleuska
Art Director: Arkadiusz Pawlik
Photographer: Jacek Wotowski
Year: 2003


In India, the word ‘Thanda’ has many meanings. It means ‘cool’, ‘cold’, as well as ‘refreshing’. Any refreshing drink, including soft drinks are also referred to as ‘thanda’. Guests are asked whether they would prefer coffee, tea or ‘thanda’ (something cool and refreshing). Therefore the headline in Hindi (the local language) means “Cool Means Coca-Cola”.

Advertising Agency: McCann Erickson India
Creative Director: Prasoon Joshi
Copywriter: Prasoon Joshi
Art Director: Akshay Kapnadak
Photographer: Altaf Khan
Year: 2003
Gold Lion for the campaign


Advertising Agency: McCann Erickson India
Creative Director: Prasoon Joshi
Copywriter: Prasoon Joshi
Art Director: Akshay Kapnadak
Photographer: Altaf Khan
Year: 2004

Coca-Cola Italia – BOTTLE/KISS

Advertising Agency: McCann Erickson Milan
Creative Director: Alessandro Canale
Copywriter: Valerio Delle Foglie
Art Director: Antonio Mele
Photographer: Marco Ambrosi
Year: 2004


Advertising Agency: Mother, London
Creative Director: Robert Saville/Mark Waites
Copywriter: Yan Elliot
Art Director: Luke Williamson
Typographer: Stephen Allen
Year: 2004

Coca-Cola de Argentina – FACES

Advertising Agency: McCann Erikson Argentina
Creative Director: Martin Mercado/Esteban Pigni
Copywriter: Pablo Romano/Martin Mercado/Esteban Pigni
Art Director: Christian Maselli/Diego Tuya/Denise Rodman
Photographer: Charlie Mainardi
Year: 2004

Coca-Cola, Germany – BLACK

Advertising Agency: Springer & Jacoby, Hamburg
Creative Director: Till Hohmann/Axel Thomsen/Bettina Olf
Copywriter: Birgit Bouer/Florian Kahler
Art Director: Jan Blumentritt
Year: 2005

Coca-Cola, Germany – THOUGHT/DREAM/IDEA

Headline: When a thought stays just a thought nothing changes.

Headline: Live your dream, don’t dream your life.

Headline: When an idea remains merely an n idea nothing changes.

Advertising Agency: Springer & Jacoby, Hamburg
Creative Director: Till Hohmann/Axel Thomsen/Bettina Olf
Copywriter: Menno Kluin
Art Director: Menno Kluin
Year: 2005

Coca-Cola Spain – CLOUDS/SHAME

Advertising Agency: McCann Erikson, Madrid
Creative Director: Marcos Garcia
Copywriter: Marcos Maggi
Art Director: Marcela Augustowsky
Illustrator: Genevive Glaucker
Year: 2005


Advertising Agency: McCann Erikson, Madrid
Creative Director: Marcos Garcia
Copywriter: David Moure/Pablo Castellano
Art Director: Javier Wandosell
Illustrator: Javier Wandosell
Year: 2005

Coca-Cola Philippines – VALENTINES

Advertising Agency: McCann Erikson Philippines
Creative Director: Peter Acuna/Carlo Directo/Micky Domingo
Copywriter: Lisa Kahn
Art Director: Che Soriano
Photographer: Jeanne Young
Year: 2005

Coca-Cola Japan – Coke, Please Campaign

Advertising Agency: Dentsu, Tokyo
Creative Director: Tohru Tanaka
Copywriter: Hirokazu Ueda/Satoshi Hanai
Art Director: Kengo Kato
Photographer: Shu Akashi
Year: 2007

Coca-Cola Pacific – SURFER

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Singapore
Creative Director: Sanol Dabral
Copywriter: Neil Flory
Art Director: Alan Vladusic
Year: 2007

Coca-Cola New Zealand – SUMMER AS IT SHOULD BE

Advertising Agency: Publicis Mojo, Auckland
Creative Director: Nick Worthington
Copywriter: Guy Denniston
Art Director: Emmanuel Bougnerers
Year: 2007


Advertising Agency: Wieden+Kennedy, Amsterdam
Executive Creative Director: Al Moseley/John Norman
Creative Director: Rick Condos/Hunter Hindman
Copywriter: Rick Condos/Giles Montgomery
Art Director: Hunter Hindman
Illustrator: Dave Fikkert/Pierre Janneau/Genevieve Gauckler/Spencer Wilson
Year: 2007


In 2006, Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam has commissioned artists and collectives from around the world to create experimental work for the global “The Coke Side of Life” campaign. The result is a range of original artworks by emerging image-makers as different as Catalina Estrada, Geneviève Gauckler or the Peepshow Collective, … many of whom have gone on to make strong impacts in today’s graphic design & art scene.
The ‘Coca-Cola’ Art Gallery is a collection of images that has been designed by leading artists and designers. They have all depicted their own interpretation of ‘The Coke Side of Life’ philosophy.
The work of the artists reflects various styles, personalities and cultures, and all designs have one thing in common: they are colourful explosions of energy, optimism and happiness.
Throughout its 120-year history, advertising and communication has played a vital role in shaping ‘Coca-Cola’ into an iconic, cultural and timeless brand. Over the years, ‘Coca-Cola’ has continually challenged artists and agencies to create innovative refreshing images.
The diverse backgrounds of the contributing artists and designers, has resulted in a range of images that reflect different cultures and societies. By combining the iconic original glass bottle image with up-to-date illustration techniques and styles, the artists have given rise to a progressive style of visual expression.
‘Coca-Cola’ has always had a strong artistic heritage having been famously interpreted by artists such as Haddon Sundblom, Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol who have all reflected the social and cultural attitudes of the time.

Live the Coke Side of the Music – VIOLIN/FACES/INSTRUMENTS

Advertising Agency: JWT Brazil
Creative Director:Richardo Chester/Roberto Fernandez
Art Director: Roberto Fernandez
Illustrator: Roberto Fernandez
Year: 2007

Coca-Cola  – CREATED IN 1886

After years of cool marketing campaigns revolving around football, music and latterly computer gaming, the world’s most famous brand is going back to basics. Coca-Cola has been communicating about its product, what’s in it “Nothing artificial. Never had been, never will be” and the product heritage, dating back to 1886 when John Pemberton created his secret formula.

Advertising Agency: Weiden+Kennedy, Portland
Year: 2008


“Open Happiness”is an advertising focus building on the award-winning “Coke Side of Life” campaign. The new tag line, seen in this series of print advertisements, will serve as a platform for all integrated marketing for the Coca Cola brand around the world, tying together the pleasure of opening up a drink and the satisfaction of sharing with others. Open Happiness is designed to work at every level, from national advertising all the way down to coolers and store shelves, with a clear call to action at the point of purchase.”

Advertising Agency: Wieden+Kennedy, Amsterdam
Executive Creative Director: Jeff Kling/John Norman
Creative Director: Jorge Calleja/Sue Anderson
Copywriter: Sue nderson
Art Director: Craig Williams/Pierre Janneau
Illustrator: Pierre Janneau
Year: 2009

Open Happines Campaign from Coca-Cola Pacific – BURP/LAUGH LINE/SMILE

This poster campaign introduce Coca-Cola’s new Open Happiness platform to a relatively young audience — locally.
These “bottles” executed in a breezy manner bring out the full flavour of the Open Happiness campaign. The light-hearted messages in the shape of iconic Coke bottles invite the audience “to open happiness” — even without overt Coke branding.

Advertising Agency: Euro RSCG, Singapore
Creative Director: Alfred Wee
Copywriter: Wong Wai Ling
Art Director: Jimmy Kim/Seah Ting Ting
Illustrator: Evan Lim
Year: 2010

Coca-Cola – Coke Vs. Coke Zero

Watch as 2 actors, posing as Coke marketing executives starts a grassroot movment inside the Coca-Cola Company. Many employees thought it was real…

Describe the campaign
Everyone knows that diet colas don’t taste like the real thing. So how do you convince a skeptical world that your new, zero calorie drink actually tastes like Coke? In this hyper-litigious society, there can only be one answer: you file a lawsuit for taste infringement. Or at least have some fun with the notion by hiring two actors to play Coke brand managers, who’ll recruit real attorneys to support their lawsuit against Coke Zero. Then you turn the whole thing into one big integrated campaign that gives consumers a refreshingly honest look at a huge company like Coke.
Describe how the campaign was launched and executed across each channel in the order of implementation.
National TV launched last year, with six 30 second spots running throughout 2007. CokeZero.com included Coke vs Coke Zero webfilms, “Ruin This Man’s Day” (a game) and “Sue a Friend” (a tool), with supporting digital banners. During the NCAA Final Four weekend in Atlanta, the two “Coke brand managers” conducted an anti-Coke Zero campaign in the Coca-Cola headquarters, complete with authentic ID badges and business cards. Additionally, at Atlanta’s My Coke Fest they publicly protested Coke Zero with a tent, signage and samples to remind the public that “taste confusion hurts us all”. New summer print and OOH followed.
Give some idea of how successful this campaign was with both client and consumer.
By September 2007, Coke Zero reached a 1.3% market share, which equates to approximately 22 million cases beyond business projections. It’s the only brand to retain a share greater than 1% of the 350 brands launched over the past 5 years (Nielsen Scanning Channels YTD 2007). As the most blogged-about package-goods launch in a 2007 Nielsen study, Coke Zero was mentioned at 100 times the rate of the category average. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The CBS Early Show ran substantial pieces on the brand, and its impact on the Coca-Cola company overall.

Advertising Agency: Crispin Porter+Bogusky
Creative Director: Dave Schiff
Associate Creative Director: Alex Burnard
Copywriter: Erkki Izarra/Adrian Alexander
Art Director: Dayoung Ewart
Production Company: Villians, Nutmeg
Director: Fred Goss

Coca-Cola – Happiness Machine around the world

USA – The original
A Coca-Cola vending machine is transformed into a happiness machine delivering “doses” of happiness. Where will happiness strike next?

The Coca-Cola Happiness Machine made an appearance at the Kansas Union on the University of Kansas campus Monday, October 25, 2010.

The Ohio Union had a special vending machine provided by Coca-Cola on November 8, 2010. Open Happiness! As always, it was a great day at the Ohio Union!

Bowen-Thompson Student Union, Bowling Green State University, November 10, 2010


Coca-Cola is unleashing happiness again, this time in the UK! The much-anticipated sequel to the global internet sensation — the Coca-Cola Happiness Machine which caught the world’s imagination earlier this year with one million views in the first week alone.


A Coca-Cola Happiness machine found it’s way to Byporten shopping mall in Oslo to bring some happiness to the Norwegians!


Brazil, MTV 20th Anniversary Event
Rio de Janeiro
São Paulo



Thapar University, Patiala
DAV College, Chandigarh




How Coca-Cola created It’s Happiness Machine (Interview)

By Meaghan Edelstein

Most big brands don’t share the secrets behind how they create hugely successful web videos. For the first time ever, Coke executives and leaders at Definition 6, the agency responsible for the award-winning “Happiness Machine” video, reveal the secret ingredients that made it such a success.

Global Senior Brand Manager for Coca-Cola, AJ Brustein, Definition 6 Director of Interactive Strategy, Paul McClay and Definition 6 Creative Director Paul Iannacchino take us through the making of Coke’s “Happiness Machine.”

Coming up with a Brilliant Idea

Q: What was Coke’s goal? What was Coke looking for when they decided to create a web video?

Brustein: Coke’s original goal was to beef up its digital activation platform.The plan was to release seven different pieces of content, iPhone and social media applications, wallpaper screen savers and a video that we hoped would go viral. “The Happiness Machine” web video started out as just a piece of digital content, a dose of happiness.

Q: How did your team come up with the “Happiness Machine” concept?

Iannacchino: The process started with a large brainstorming session. Three ideas turned into a pitch that was taken back to Coke and “The Happiness Machine” was selected. Over the course of sixty days we used story boards to refine the piece. We had a strong core idea, but needed to develop the story. Our device was the Coke machine. Location, we needed to be entrenched in Coke’s demographic. Finally we had to ask ourselves, how is the narrative going to play out? How will we get people to approach the machine? How will we make it appear as normal as possible? And, how do we get escalation?

McClay: We came up with the idea over Falafel sandwiches on a sunny deck. It was a fun collaboration. The brainstorming and ideation began with a well-defined framework of constraints and set of objectives provided by Coke. Otherwise we were given free reign. We wanted to provide a message that would resonate with the target audience.

3 Tips for coming up with a Brilliant Idea

  • A good story takes time to develop. Take the time to brainstorm your idea and let it develop into something people will relate to and want to share, Iannacchino said.
  • Look at videos online to see what’s successful and what isn’t. Most often the most successful web videos have something that provokes a reaction, Brustein said.
  • The brainstorming process has to be fun, light hearted and uncontrolled. You never really know when a good idea is going to come up. Often the best ideas end up being the small snippets that came up throughout the process, McClay said.

What to Do with Your Brilliant Idea

Q: After Coke approved the “Happiness Machine,” what was the next step? How did the idea shape into a real experience?

Brustein: Coke’s goal was to create an organic experience. Other than the janitor loading the machine, nothing was scripted. If the video had been scripted, it wouldn’t have had the same effect. The girl mouthing “Oh My God,” students helping each other lift the huge sub, hugging the Coke machine — these true moments are what gave the video life.

Q: How did you create an organic reaction?

Iannacchino: Coke wanted the machine to be magical but didn’t want to reveal the secret behind the magic. To accomplish this we had to show it was a normal Coke machine. The janitor unlocked the machine leaving the door wide open while he loaded bottles of Coke inside. This created a misdirect for the audience, leaving everyone to believe the machine was authentic. Setting up the scene this way helped create an organic reaction which relayed the magic of the brand.

Q: People may think the success of this video was due to Coke giving away free stuff to college students. Do you believe this is true?

Iannacchino: We would argue that it was the element of surprise, not that somebody got animal balloons or two Cokes instead of one. What Coke really gave away was a sense of happiness which created an emotional connection with the brand. Students involved in this video were caught up in their everyday lives, and this little moment touched them. We used free stuff to surprise people but what we gave away was happiness and a smile. The key is engagement, whether you were there or just watching, free stuff was just the catalyst.

McClay: Giving away free stuff wasn’t what resonated with the audience at the end of the day. After doing testing we found it was the students’ expressions of happiness and the way they reacted that people enjoyed. You can film people being given free stuff all day long and it will fall flat on the audience. The way people react is what matters.

3 Tips for Executing your Idea

  • Simplicity and starting with a great idea is the key. You have to get it out of your head that if you make it they will watch it, Iannacchino said.
  • Brainstorm. Once your team feels strongly about an idea, challenge one another to make it better. You can always improve the idea up until the day you shoot, Iannacchino added.
  • Where you have a wide dispersed team it’s important for everyone to be looped in, briefed and approving things through the entire process so there is always forward momentum with positive energy, McClay said.

Putting it all Together

Q: How did you put it all together?

Iannacchino: The first thirty days we ramped up into production. The web video was set to launch January 1, 2010 and we began shooting in early December. We took a working Coke vending machine and re-built it to do the things we wanted it to. There wasn’t a big budget for this project — mostly sweat equity.

Q: How did you pick the location?

Iannacchino: Location was key. We had to find a space that was entrenched in Coke’s demographic. We knew we wanted a college campus but it couldn’t be just any campus. The college we picked had to be Coke affiliated, on board with our idea with heavy foot traffic by students and have a space that would allow for the important element of secrecy.

St. John’s University ended up being the perfect location. We built a secret room in their cafeteria over a weekend so it looked like construction to the students. Because we did it this way no one asked any questions.

Q: What were some of the challenges you faced?

Iannacchino: Going back and tweaking the story, finding the perfect location, and building of the actual “Happiness Machine.” Lots of things didn’t work but that was okay. Imagine a eight by fifteen foot room for two days, with five cameras, planning for the worst and hoping for the best!

SECRET: The sub — we only had one, so there was one shot to get it right. The giant sub ended up being the item that punctuated the story.

2 Tips for Putting it All Together

  • Technology and digital space, as well as equipment, are cheap and accessible. Use this to your advantage, Iannacchino said.
  • Be invested in your idea. Plan and prepare to execute your video well, Iannacchino added.

Getting It to Go Viral

Q: How much did Coke spend to promote the video?

Brustein: Coke spent zero on promoting “The Happiness Machine.” One status update was posted on Coke’s Facebook Page, one tweet and that was it. Within a day the video was picked up by bloggers and it spread from there. Of course we could have bought views but the experiment succeeded without any promotion.

Q: What was the process to get the video to go viral?

Iannacchino: We uploaded the web video to Coke’s YouTube channel on day one. The video then moved through the advertising trades before it picked up steam with consumers. In the first five days there were seven hundred thousand visits and in the first week one million. It hit the top of the viral video chart that week.

Q: Why do you think “The Happiness Machine” video went viral?

McClay: Something being viral wasn’t the strategy, but instead it was a possible outcome. The strategy was to produce great creative content that resonated and wasn’t a hard hitting commercial. We wanted it to have pass-along value and never intended to seed it with paid dollars. It was all about the exercise of producing creative video for online distribution. We aimed for something the audience would use and enjoy.

Q: How can other brands increase web video distribution?

McClay: Several tactical things need to be accomplished in order to get distribution. Getting bloggers to post about your video, tweets and Facebook mentions are just a few ways. But the big spikes happen when the video hits the homepage of YouTube or Yahoo.

Getting featured comes down to whether your video is creative, which is dependent upon the perception of the decision makers. The number of views is also critical. If you can create pass-along value it will increase your views. People like to share humor. When something makes me laugh, I think my friend will laugh too.

2 Tips for Getting a Video to Go Viral

  • Spreadable video is important; put the same effort into your creative ideation as you would a television commercial and you will produce some amazing content. Don’t think small because the aspect ratio is, Iannacchino said. Push creative boundaries.
  • If your strategy is to go viral from the outset, then it’s likely to fail, McClay said.


The key ingredients, as always, are imagination and hard work. Both Coke and Definition 6 put an enormous amount of creativity, time and energy into “The Happiness Machine.” “One thing to take a way is that it wasn’t a fluke,” Iannacchino said. “A lot of work went into it.”

The “Happiness Machine” video, the result of a collaboration between Coca-Cola and integrated interactive marketing agency Definition 6, features a Coca-Cola vending machine transformed to deliver surprising “doses” of happiness to unsuspecting college students. Chris Yates did a video interview with Chris Thornton the CMO of Defition 6.


Agency: Definition 6, Atlanta
Executive Creative Director John Harne
Director: Paul Iannacchino Jr.