When you hear a poem in an ad, especially a Super Bowl ad, it’s usually a safe and licensed choice lifted from the long-dead likes of Whitman or Frost.

But Coca-Cola went a different direction with its Super Bowl ad, building it instead around a lovely and original poem about inclusiveness, identity, individuality and, yes, Coke.

So was the ad written by a poet or a copywriter? Both, actually, in the form of Wieden + Kennedy Portland’s Becca Wadlinger, who cut her teeth on poetry long before she was recruited into the world of advertising. She has an MFA and Ph.D. in creative writing, plus a book of poetry on the way.

Artistry and attention-grabbing advertising don’t always work well together, but Coke’s spot found a charming balance of romantic visuals, well-crafted words and cultural resonance—all while effectively selling soda.

Adweek: Were you involved with this project from the beginning, or were you brought in once the team realized a poetic tone would be the right fit?

Rebecca Wadlinger: I’ve been on the Coke account since I started at Wieden+Kennedy, so I’ve always been along for the ride. 

Poetic copywriting, especially in a party atmosphere like the Super Bowl, can often sound self-indulgent and overly sincere. Yours really nailed it, though. How did you find the right balance?

I think poetry goes great with a party atmosphere, but maybe that says too much about the kind of parties I’m invited to. But really, I knew the spot was on the thoughtful side, so during the game I was crossing my fingers that we didn’t air after an exploding yacht driven by sexy unicorns or a centaur with Kelsey Grammer rapping as the top half.

As for the writing itself, it helps that the Coca-Cola brand has such a well-established, human voice. I’m thinking about the “reds,” or the text-only ads that have spoken directly to people for years. Coke is optimistic, so I let that lead the tone of the poem.

People who read my personal work know that it’s a very different kind of poetry from what you saw in the game. It’s dark and imaginative and surreal.

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One thought on “The Poet Behind Coke’s Super Bowl Spot Wants All of Us to Bring More Art to Advertising (via Adweek)

  1. One of the readers of that “commercial poem”, Jessica Gallion, is a local Los Angeles poet, and friend, who I’ve been fortunate enough to have shared a stage with, and work on projects together. She, as well as all the other readers in the ad, gave voice to poetry on a world stage.

    Thank you for the post.

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