Friday, December 07, 2007


Here's another wonderful Coca-Cola ad that I swiped off the back of a National Geographic from 1950. As I mentioned in my last post, an old uncle dumped a bunch of National Geographic magazines on my family in the 1970s and they sat neglected in our basement for years. I used to read through them, but I mainly loved to look at the advertisements. By the time I was 14, I had gotten into the habit of taking household junk to the flea market and selling it for extra cash. My dad said I could take the Nat. Geo.'s to the flea market, but a friend told me that those things were so plentiful, no one would give me a penny for them. Finally, my father decided to drop them off at the Goodwill. Before he piled them in the trunk of his car, however, I ripped the back covers off about a dozen or so of the mags so I could save those amazing Coca-Cola ads. As you can see, I still have them to this day.

While this is not one of my absolute favorites, it does have the essential elements that makes one of these holiday ads so attractive. Of course, you have the iconic image of Santa looming at the top of the page, holding another icon of American marketing: the six-ounce glass Coca-Cola bottle. What has made those bottles so attractive over the decades is the feel of that scalloped bottle in your hand, the curves perfectly designed to provide maximum grip. Santa holding the bottle is a subliminal come-on.

Beneath the God-like image of Santa, we see to children excitedly loading up the refrigerator with colas to quench the thirst of our traveling gift-giver and possibly bribe him out of more presents. Taking the well-known tradition of kids leaving cookies and milk for Santa into leaving Coca-Colas is a brilliant twist. In this post-war world of rising consumerism, Coca-Cola insinuates itself into the collective unconscious of holiday traditions. The image speaks to everything Americans aspired to in 1950: two healthy, well-scrubbed and thoughtful children, modern conveniences like the refrigerator, and the ability to afford all the comforts a family would ice cold Coca-Cola in the easy-to-carry six-pack container. Even though the country was not fully on the road to prosperity, and a nasty conflict in Korea had just begun, Americans kept their eyes on that future they had dreamed of since the Depression, and it was very nearly at hand.

As a pre-teen boy sitting on the floor of his basement in a very different world over 25 years later, I wanted to experience that dream as well. I wanted to live in that world that really only existed in a Coca-Cola ad. Fortunately, I was too naive to know that then.

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