Not content with sparking controversy only once in the past three months, Coca Cola recently made a reappearance as a hilarious Twitter trend.
The flurry of internet activity has come on the heels of Diet Coke’s latest “You’re On” campaign – the one featuring Taylor Swift. Why? The advertisements have been linked to a highly addictive, illegal drug. Naturally.
This is entirely due to a combination of their tagline and design. In what can only be assumed as an homage to the original, cocaine-laden Cola recipe, Coke’s resulting graphics have garnered criticism for their “accidental” connections to the drug. So far, the advertisements in question have only appeared as posters and billboards in New York City, working to create considerable buzz.
Until recently, the “backlash” had stayed within the realms of mockery on Twitter and hadn’t prompted an official response. The story, however, has been gaining traction, resulting in a fair amount of publicity on top of the numerous tweets. Articles have appeared on influential online magazines, blogs, and news sources such as AdWeek, The Gothamist, Mashable, The New York Observer, and The Huffington Post. As of now, Diet Coke’s official #YoureOn Twitter hashtag has been hijacked and flooded with photographs of the brand’s outdoor marketing materials as well as talk on the campaign’s narcotic connections.
Finally, Diet Coke responded with an official statement, sent to those reporters who reached out to them – the first of which was AdWeek’s David Gianatasio. The following statement has not been made available on Diet Coke’s website and can only be found in the articles themselves:
This advertising is one part of the new campaign for Diet Coke, which is called ‘You’re On.’ It celebrates ambitious young achievers from all walks of life and reminds them that Diet Coke is there to support them in the moments when they are at their best. Every single day, young people around the world experience ‘You’re On’ moments big and small. It could be a job interview or a national TV interview, a first date or a final exam, a presentation to your boss or a performance in front of thousands. The Diet Coke logo is the centerpiece of the ad campaign. Diet Coke in no way endorses or supports the use of any illegal substance.
Usually on top of their game, Coke’s response was actually met with much cynicism from AdWeek readers, introducing pockets of negative feeling to a situation that was mostly being shared for its comedic value. Due to Coca Cola’s reputation for on-point messaging, many believe that the advertisements weren’t purely coincidental.
However, Diet Coke has remained silent on its social media channels and has decided not to make a press release available, choosing not to acknowledge the issue in a major way. This may prove to be a good move, as the backlash is minimal at this stage and hasn’t caused any harm. Publishing a full press release could draw attention to the harmful, reputation-damaging connotations that some audience members have made. This is something Diet Coke will want to avoid. In choosing to release a statement to the individual reporters in lieu of releasing one to the public, Coke has instead singled out its influencers, stopping the conversation at its source, albeit in a flawed way. This has allowed the brand to contain the conversation.
It will, however, need to continue to monitor the situation. As negative attention to the issue has been growing, it is possible that further actions will need to be taken by Diet Coke. On the lower end, it may need to address its consumers though its social media channels and make a statement available publically. If it escalates further, the brand may need to consider pulling the advertisements and issuing an apology in order to retain goodwill – which shouldn’t be too hard considering the in-built plausible deniability the “you’re on” message has.
Still, it’s doubtful that the situation will progress further from its current standing. The ads have managed to attract extra attention without being offensive enough to cause any real damage to the brand. Then again, what do you expect from an advertising agency called Droga5?
… Yes, really.