Sunday, April 02, 2006

I'd like to buy...
text: Iskra Dimitrova

film stills:
I'd like to buy...
2007, video, color, sound, 1' 01''

In 1969 Coca Cola assembled a chorus of young people on a hilltop in Italy. The commercial starts with a close-up of the face of a young woman singing Coke's lyrics. Overhead lighting reflects off her blonde hair. As other voices join in, the camera slowly pulls back revealing a multi-racial chorus of young people neatly dressed in their traditional garb, all holding a bottle of Coke. (

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…
…"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. (

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
That's the real thing
(Repeat Chorus)
(Chorus 2)
What the world wants today
Is the real thing
(Repeat Chorus 2)

In advertising history, there are innumerable examples of lending and quoting from fine arts. This time, the opposite method has been used. Through media archaeology, this old Coca Cola commercial has been found. Modern-day screening of the 1971 commercial is allowing time-decontextualization to take place.
The project's aim was to investigate the social impact of the commercial, by using the same media, TV broadcasting, but in a different context. The TV advertisement was planned to be screened without any announcement during political debates, documentary movies and shows with a similar background.
The project would question the possibility of decontextualization, considering the lapse of time of 36 years and the placement of the commercial in a politically engaged context.
Would the commercial seduce us again or would we 'read' it differently this time?
Part of the answer was given by the Coca Cola Company itself. Namely, by company courtesy, the original ad Hilltop was provided for gallery screenings only. Therefore, the politically engaged background was offered by the video work Comrade Alfredo Neri of the artist Khaled Ramadan. The TV advertisement was screened in addition to this work. The media experiment was restricted to the visitors of the exhibition.

Commercial Hilltop, courtesy: Coca-Cola Company, Belgrade, RS 2007.

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