Coke Confronts A Turbulent Market With Ads That Foster Unity


The recently ended second quarter was arguably “the toughest and most complex quarter in Coca-Cola history,” in the words of Coca-Cola Co. chairman and CEO James Quincey.

Even before the onset of COVID-19 and its impact on global retail and foodservice sales, the company was working to rationalize its brand holdings, Quincey noted in a recent call with financial analysts. 

Putting that into perspective, Coca-Cola has 400 of what it considers “master brands,” more than half of which “are single-country brands with little to no scale. The total combined revenue of those brands is approximately 2% of our total. They’re growing slower than the company average, but each one still requires resources and investments.”

This helps to explain why the company just discontinued its Odwalla juice business, which it had acquired in 2001.

As with most major beverage companies, the pandemic has crushed foodservice sales in North America as people have opted to dine more at home.

One particular bright spot for Coca-Cola has been takeout business at quick-serve restaurants.

The bigger hurdles going forward: bars, restaurants and at-work dining spaces.

In late June, the company said it would suspend all organic and paid activity on social media starting July 1 for at least 30 days because of the presence of “racism” on those platforms. On June 30, Coca-Cola posted its first global ad campaign since the pandemic began—titled “Coca-Cola: The Great Meal”—on YouTube

In this interview, Sarah Traverso, group director of integrated marketing content at Coca-Cola North America, talks about new Coke ad campaigns and the brand’s ongoing absence from social media platforms.

CPG FYI: Please explain the meaning behind The Great Meal.

Traverso: This really is a film about a shared meal and a shared experience around the globe. It’s a nice, subtle reminder that we as humans were part of this one big large global family and we’re all in this together. It was filmed with 13 different parings of families, couples and friends around the world. They invited us into their homes.

CPG FYI: What is the name of the song in the commercial?

Traverso: It’s called Sabali, by a duo out of Mali. The translation of the word Sabali actually means patience. It’s finding joy in the little things in life that matter most for you. 

CPG FYI: Coca-Cola has paused all social media activity for at least 30 days. Any guidance as to when that might end?

Traverso: We as a company have decided to take a step back and reassess our advertising policies and look for greater transparency and accountability from our partners. As we continue to dive into that, we will circle back with everybody on what that means and what that looks like for our reentry.

CPG FYI: Tell me more aboutCoke’slaunch of more commercials that carry messaging similar to that of The Great Meal.

Traverso: Coca-Cola’s new “Home BBQ” and “Order-in Pizza” spots convey the brand’s optimistic take on the shared experience of families coming together over food, showcasing two familiar fooding rituals at home with Coke. 

[They] are the latest films from Coke’s summer campaign, “Together Tastes Better,” a new food communication platform that celebrates togetherness over food.

CPG FYI: Since you’re off social media, where are these new commercials appearing?

Traverso: The new spots will run across nearly 50 networks—both broadcast and cable—in addition to Hulu, Roku and Amazon.

CPG FYI: Some people are getting a first look at your coffee-infused beverage before it hits store shelves in January. Why is that?

Traverso: We wanted to give some of our super exclusive opportunity to taste the new beverage before it officially hits shelves. The Coca-Cola Insiders Club is a beverage subscription service that is exclusively available to the first 2,000 “Insiders” who signed up to receive some of our newer beverages, plus more exciting surprises and swag, when the program launched in December 2019.

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