When Mad Men’s final season premieres this Sunday night, we’ll be glued to our televisions. Viewers are drawn to the intrigue, the drama and the glamour of the early days of modern advertising. Content creators – marketers, advertisers, writers – simply love the work. In eight seasons, Mad Men has shown us a myriad PR campaigns, from hand-drawn billboards to glossy magazine ads and television commercials that play with lighting to tell a story.
Don Draper’s best work reflects a fundamental truth: effective marketing uses visual content to create connections. In honor of the new season, we took a look at one real-life iconic brand – Coca-Cola – to see how its use of visual content has evolved through the ages.
1. Action in 2D: Coke & the 1932 Olympics
Early Coca-Cola artwork reflected the spirit of the times. Coke adopted the look and feel of sports programs and illustrations of the era for this 1932 Olympics piece to capture and celebrate moments of achievement.
2. 1931: Modernizing a Cultural Icon
3. Visual Content Moves to the Small Screen in 1963: Coke on the Beach
4. 1971: Art Direction Scales, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”
5. 1979: A Complete Narrative, “Mean” Joe Green
6. 1984: Creating a Persona with Pixels
Coca-Cola embraced new forms of digital content to create this icon, “Max Headroom,” for its 1984 campaign. Using synthesizers and new digital tools, Coke experimented with the new medium to tell a new kind of story with a different kind of hero.
7. 1993: Digital Drives Storytelling in “Always Coca-Cola”
Almost a decade later, Coca‑Cola again experimented with technology – this time computer animation – to create the iconic polar bears that have become synonymous with Coke ever since. The original inspiration for the polar bears was the creative team lead’s own dog.
8. Visual Storytelling at Global Scale: YouTube & the 2010 FIFA World Cup
Coca-Cola went viral with this piece of video content, K’NAAN’s “Wavin’ Flag,” the unofficial theme song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The video amassed more than 100M views across the original version and the consumer-generated videos it inspired worldwide.
9. Experiential Marketing in 2013: The Small World Machine
In March 2013, Coca-Cola brought its vision for connecting people living in India and Pakistan to life through the simple execution of a “small world machine.” The machines, lightly branded and easy to use, enabled a live communications portal between citizens in both countries. The resulting content – a video of handshakes, hugs, and smiles – combined to create a piece that is greater than the sum of its parts.
10. Micro-Content: Telling Stories One Byte at a Time
Coke continues to evolve its efforts to connect through content, and today embraces all forms of storytelling platforms and social media. Its Pinterest account features high-quality photographs of “moments of happiness,” discovered by Coke and by its millions of fans.