Not On Purpose
By Miranda di Caraci
Last week I was particularly irked by an advert. It wasn’t the kind of advert that usually irks me (the London Underground monstrosities, for instance, that rightly never get to see light of day).
‘Small World Machines’ was a different breed, a message of togetherness and hope for a unified future, broadcasted to us by Coca-Cola that I found more saccharine than the drink itself.
In fact, much like a sugar-high (hello, artfully extended metaphor) the initial buzz of seeing humans smiling, happy and connected crashed when I considered the wider implication of a soda company involving itself in the India Pakistan conflict.
While initially I felt filled with a righteous rage, I am now stuck in a no man’s land as I try to unpick the elements that annoyed me, and see where they stand a week later.
My initial reaction was that Coca-Cola prostituted the struggle of others to further its own brand message ‘a little happiness brings the world together’.
It chose to avoid uncomfortable truths about the conflict itself.
At the start phrases like ‘a lot of lows’, ‘stressful’, ‘tense’ are overlaid on images of Indians and Pakistanis going about their daily lives seemingly unaffected, if a little glum.
This seemed an understatement for 2013, which was described as the worst bought of fighting in the region for nearly 10 years, with civilian deaths and soldiers found decapitated and mutilated.
Also the way that it is filmed makes it seem like the vending machines provoked a nationwide revelation and became a key step towards peace between the countries.
Rather than calling viewers to action it lulls them into a ‘happily ever after’ when the problem is far from over.
In fact, as it’s an advert for Coca-Cola, the only thing it solves is getting more people to buy Coca-Cola.
This week, I’ve (temporarily) stepped off my soapbox, and into the slippery issue of purpose within the world, with the help of two much more experienced perspectives.
The first took a Taoist approach, arguing that we contribute happiness back into the world through changing individual connections and perspectives, in this case both of the people in the video and those watching it.
Garnering 3.2 million viewers on YouTube is no mean feat, and the overwhelming positivity of the comments section is heart-warming (even thought I hate that phrase).
Does this good outweigh the harm Coke can cause?
Or at the very least does it help tip the scale more than a dew-embellished pack shot ever could?
The second and most practical perspective argued that any money a big brand put towards a bettering the world can only be a good thing.
Raymond Chandler once quipped that ‘Chess is as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you can find outside an advertising agency’ and perhaps purpose within ad culture is a way to change that.
Even within the School of Communication Arts at the moment there is a constant pulse towards change, reassessing inequality and injustice inside and out.
For instance, Daisy wrote a fantastic piece in Campaign, calling veteran adlanders to help address diversity in creative industries.
It makes me look forward to tomorrow.