Coca-Cola Donates 50 Years of Television Commercials
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Holmes Report

Coca-Cola Donates 50 Years of Television Commercials

The Coca-Cola Company, celebrating its 50th anniversary of television advertising, donated its entire collection of historic television commercials to the Library of Congress.

Paul Holmes

The Coca-Cola Company, celebrating its 50th anniversary of television advertising, donated its entire collection of historic television commercials to the Library of Congress as part of the Library’s Bicentennial Gifts to the Nation program.  The donation, made on November 29, 2000, will eventually exceed 20,000 television ads and represents the largest donation of corporate advertising in the Library’s 200-year history.  The Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, has the largest and most comprehensive collection of American and internationally produced films and television broadcasts in the world.  The Gifts to the Nation program encourages benefactors to donate rare and important acquisitions to the Library’s national collections. The Coca-Cola gift reflects five decades of local cultures around the world and will provide an extraordinary resource to researchers and historians of popular culture.  The greatest challenge of this multi-faceted program was compiling five decades of advertising surrounding this iconic brand and packaging it to tell a compelling story to the world.
The significance of this entry shows that throughout history, people everywhere have built relationships with each other by telling stories and sharing experiences.  Coca-Cola has been an integral part of peoples’ lives by helping to tell these stories.  This collection of broadcast advertising is a mirror of the stories of the past half-century.  A strategic PR campaign was designed to showcase the relevancy of one of America’s most popular brands and strike an emotional chord with consumers everywhere.  Also of interest, the ongoing presidential campaign had the potential to preempt coverage of the Coca-Cola event.  However, when information of the gift was properly packaged, media around the world “gulped” at the refreshing story and paused to join in celebrating this milestone event.  Coverage was ubiquitous and continuous.
To demonstrate that Coca-Cola has always been a sign of the times, Ogilvy PR worked with the archivists at Coca-Cola to: 1) chronicle the television campaigns from 1950 to present; 2) develop case histories highlighting some of the most popular ads; 3) research celebrities who got their starts in Coca-Cola commercials (e.g. Keanu Reeves, Cameron Diaz, Sharon Stone); 4) interview writers/performers of the famous Hillside and “Mean” Joe Greene commercials and 5) tour warehouse facility where old commercials were stored as well as the company where films were being restored prior to delivery to LOC.  The warehouse, full of boxed advertising film cans provided an overwhelming sense of the enormity of 50 years of commercials.  This collection of Coca-Cola’s broadcast advertising is a mirror of the times in which the ads were filmed.
  • Demonstrate Coca-Cola is, and has always been, an enduring part of people's lives around the world and is associated with fun times and entertainment
  • Generate national and international publicity
  • Position ads as cultural snapshots and reflections of the times in which they were created

       Media – national print and broadcast; international press; online media; local market print and broadcast; advertising trade publications


  • Leverage the 50th Anniversary of Coca-Cola television advertising
  • Highlight unique aspects surrounding the Company’s gift to the Library of Congress including excerpts of most loved Coke commercials
  • Create celebratory event to mark occasion
  • Use a combination of spokespersons to deliver appropriate messages
  • Utilize both traditional and non-traditional media and communications tools to contemporize the brand
This program was executed within a one-month timeframe, in addition because of other company news and availability of key spokespersons, the embargo date was moved from November 27 until November 29.  Media who planned to cover the story earlier held to the new embargo date -- all news broke on the 29th.  In addition, coverage of the presidential election dominated news coverage around the world.
Media Outreach -- To create as many story angles as possible, a media strategy was created that utilized a combination of spokespeople for one-on-one interviews with high-profile media: Coca-Cola executives included:  CEO, Doug Daft; Chief Marketing Officer, Steve Jones; Archivist, Phil Mooney; and LOC staff included: Librarian of Congress, James Billington and Pat Loughney (head of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division).  In addition, former football hero and star of one of the most popular Coca-Cola commercials, Joe Greene was used for select interviews.
Event -- To celebrate this significant donation, an event was held at the Library of Congress.  Retrospective reels and kiosks were created, local choirs performed a medley of some of the most popular jingles and the official gift was made by Coca-Cola CEO, Doug Daft to Librarian of Congress, James Billington.
Satellite Media Tour -- To ensure coverage beyond the event, a SMT was conducted with company archivist, Phil Mooney and Pat Loughney (LOC) on the morning following the event.  Interviews were secured with local market television news and talk shows around the country.
B-Roll -- B-Roll was also produced to broaden the reach of the event into local markets across the country. Package included: highlights of commercials; footage of warehouse facility, film being transferred and edited, making of the gift, event footage including comments form Doug Daft, James Billington and performance by chorus.
Online Press Room -- To bring the news “to life” an online press room was constructed on the existing Coca-Cola Web site.  Press room included: an icon to take visitors directly to press area and to live webcast, streaming video of live event, Library of Congress link, press releases. video clips, contacts and commercial timeline
Webcast -- Provided live webcast of event, which allowed reporters to cover event from their desks.  The webcast simultaneously digitized video and audio to an Internet compatible signal and streamed it online; created and stored highlights from event as "archived" version for those who chose to view event later.
Demonstrate Coca-Cola is, and has always been, an enduring  part of people's lives around the world and is associated with fun times and entertainment
-- Stuart Elliott, The New York Times, “The donation is indicative of the increasing attention being paid to the heritage of advertising and marketing as those businesses become more a part of American, and global, corporate and popular culture.”
-- Linton Weeks, The Washington Post, “How can we forget that moment in American history when the kid hands his soda to football superstar Mean Joe Greene…Relax.  Have a Coke and a smile!”
-- Katie Couric, The Today Show, “They (Coca-Cola commercials) reflect the times we live in or were living in at the time…That (Mean Joe Greene) ad still makes me smile after all these years.”
Generate national and international publicity -- To date news of the Coca-Cola donation has been featured in print and broadcast outlets around the world.  Hits include: Today Show, CBS News This Weekend, Access Hollywood, BBC World, CNNfn, CNN Headline News, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Associated Press, Reuters, Dow Jones News Service, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, The Irish Times, National Post, UK Worldwide Advertising & Media Digest, The Canadian Press, AP Radio, CBS Radio, NBC Radio Network, ESPN Radio, CNET Radio, ABC Radio Network as well as hundreds of local market television and radio broadcasts.  Media coverage surrounding the donation generated more than 100 million impressions.
Position ads as cultural snapshots and reflections of the times in which they were created -- These ads include the famous "Hilltop" commercial of 1971, showing the people of the world coming together in times of political unrest (The Vietnam War) to share a Coke; the “Mean Joe Greene” commercial showcasing a small boy being united with his hero – this commercial was adapted around the world and the protagonist was switched from a football player to a soccer player for international appeal.
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