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Coca-Cola’s Male Sexual Objectification
Sex sells – as simple as it may sound, but it’s true. We, as consumers, may not like to be reduced to simply following the commercial industries’ lure of sexual images that undoubtedly lead us to buy certain products. Yet, the fact that advertisement has been working with sexual images for decades is a very strong indicator for the simple fact that: sex sells. My intention when looking for an interesting commercial to analyze was to find an ad in which one can easily follow our society’s idea of the commonly accepted view of men’s dominance and women’s subordination. An ad amplifying this view would have been a very interesting analysis for me to write about, particularly from a female perspective. In my research, I came upon many famous beverage commercials which portray females as sex symbols. Who doesn’t remember Cindy Crawford’s Pepsi commercial of 1990? One that stood out the most to me, without doubt, is the Diet Coke TV commercial of Spring 2013. The ad, which was produced by art director Neil Dawson at BETC London and shot in South Africa by director Rocky Morton, features the male model Andrew Copper, disguised as a landscaper, as the ultimate Diet Coke heartthrob. While the Coca-Cola company’s intention with this ad is to sell a beverage, it implicitly sends various messages to the consumer. Subliminal messages including female initiative, strength, as well as body image expectations are some. Additionally, this ad fits very well into the current movement of female empowerment.
The commercial is introduced with an image of a well-maintained park with a city skyline providing the backdrop. We observe a group of five women, representing a perfect balance of diversity, sitting down in the grass, for what seems to be a lunch break. The images are accompanied with Etta James’ song I just want to make love to you. All five ladies are styled in smart casual attire, representing professionalism. Their happy, superficial chatter, which includes the consumption of Diet Coke, is interrupted when one of them turns her head, as she notices a landscaper mowing grass in the close distance. Pushing a commercial land moeer, the well-built working man, who appears to be in his late twenties, is dressed simply – a grey T-shirt combined with a pair of jeans. The lady who has first noticed the young man, a dark-brunette, grabs the attention of her friends and points to her victim. Taking a Diet Coke can, she throws it towards him and successfully initiates the can to roll towards the gardener, coming to stop adjacent to the man’s land mower. The irritated gentleman picks up the can of Diet Coke and gives the ladies a questionable look. The brunette gives the still puzzled man a hand signal to go ahead and drink the soda. Through the down-hill rolling, the now shaken carbonated drink explodes in his hands, covering his upper body with liquid. The female group answers with a burst of laughter, initiated by the simple-minded action of the landscaper. In disbelief of his own move, the young man shakes his head, he takes his shirt, lifts it and unveils a perfect six-pack abdomen. Barrel-chested, with strong, slender biceps he takes his shirt and wrings it out. The female friends’ laughter comes to an abrupt stop, the tide has turned. It has left the ladies jaw dropped, staring at the young heartthrob who has successfully emerged from being the victim to turning the ladies into victims of his good looks. He leaves the scene, but not until he turns around one last time to give the ladies a chuckle.
The Coca-Cola company is generally not aiming for a specific gender, also in this particular commercial one cannot detect a gender specific target market. When looking at the product, which is a diet version of Coca-Cola, it is obvious that it was designed for a body- conscious, calorie-counting audience. These attributes of body-consciousness are most associated with women, but the commercial also appeals to a male audience. The image of the barrel-chested Adonis sends a clear message to the male consumer: “By having a muscular, fit, strong body, I will be noticed and admired.”
What makes this ad so intriguing is the fact that a group of women are the ones who “cat-call”. Although the female group in this commercial is still portrayed as body-conscious, given that they are all drinking Diet Coke, they are also shown to have initiative, to be confident, and to be self-aware. All of this can be observed as a clear shift in the advertisement industry, which previously generally portrayed females as pretty, naïve, and weak who ever so often would need the help and protecting of a man. The ad uses a variety of colors, based in greens, blues and whites. Green, being the color of nature, which in this particular ad is the dominate color, is known to evoke emotions of calmness, harmony, as well as relaxation. The color blue creates similar emotions and together these colors create feelings that one likes to find oneself in. The image of the female group of friends who are all slim, happy, and relaxed evokes the desire to belong. The desire of belonging is one that is most important in today’s technical world. Technology has put a gap in our social life, and it has left most of us in longing for connection with others. Coca-Cola’s commercial is showing us that we all can connect over a can of soda, and with Diet-Coke we don’t need to worry about calories.
Etta James’ song I only want to make love to you, which is the only language used in the ad, has connotations of sexual desire as well as female independence and strength. Etta James states in her song that she does not want the male to perform any household chores, but only needs him to make love to her. Although the lyrics appeal to a more conservative expectation of a female – given that Etta James is singing not to take over her chores (“I don’t want you to do the laundry”) – used in this particular commercial, the lyrics in connection with the brunette taking the initiative and playing a prank on the landscaper, evoke the feeling that it is socially acceptable for females to take the initiative and “cat-call”. Additionally, the lyrics also tell the male that he really isn’t needed for anything else, other than for making love to the woman. The simple-minded act of opening a shaken soda can, the fact that the landscaper is performing a low-skilled job and the image of the professional ladies on lunchbreak, underline the subliminal message sent through Etta James’ song and portray a reversed gender role image – the male as sex symbol and the strong, confident woman. The image that Coca-Cola portrays in this ad is one of a new kind of female: strong, successful, self-aware, beautiful and socially connected. With that the company successfully connects with pop-feminism.
The Coca-Cola brand is instantly recognizable, being a world-wide company that was founded in 1892, therefore no further introduction of the product is necessary, as it has a strong appeal to ethos. This also explains why there is no additional language to Etta James’ song and other than the Diet Coke can, no other symbols used in the commercial. In the past years Coca-Cola has hired many celebrities for its commercials (for example: Paula Abdul, Elton John, etc.). Using celebrities for a commercial creates trust in the intended audience and has a logical appeal. “When Elton John trusts and drinks Coke – so can I!” Although this particular Diet Coke commercial does not use celebrities, it still has a logical appeal: “If I drink Diet Coke instead of conventional Coke, I can be happier, slim and beautiful!”
In conclusion, the commercial achieves in reaching its audience. It is very captivating, and has a very emotional appeal to the consumer. It appeals to a female audience as it offers a product that associates itself with female confidence and professionalism and at the same time it also appeals to a male body-conscious group. In my opinion the company’s decision to reverse the commonly accepted gender role, is a very welcoming change. In connection with using body images, lust and sex appeal in advertising, this Diet Coke commercial is yet another successful example how “Sex sells”.

Post Author: admin