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.