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Coke's Hilltop Remake Ad Falls Short

Posted by: David Kiley on July 12, 2005

I like it when an advertiser tries an update of an old idea provided the idea and execution is good. Consider what BMW has done for MINI. I even like the creepy looking “Burger King” who has turned up in BK ads this year. But Coke’s remake of its classic 1971 ad, Hilltop, aka “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing,” redone as “Chilltop” for Coke Zero, left me cold.

The guy leading the song, G-Love, does a rap into the original song from 1971. And instead of a hilltop, it all tales place on a Philadelphia rooftop.

I know there are many white rappers, but this guy just doesn’t come off as genuine. The whole thing looks like some exercise in hipness as conceived by some older middle-aged ad and Coke execs. I got a whiff of the ads Buick tried to pull off a few years ago behind the tagline, “It’s All Good.” The people in the ads look like they are putting on a glee-club concert instread of the edgy ad it should be.

The agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, is the agency behind MINI and Burger King’s “King” ads, as well as the overcelebrated Subservient Chicken. So, I’m thinking something got dumbed down at the client level in this one. After all, Coke hasn’t turned out a really terrific ad in years, and it can’t be the fault of all the ad agencies it has competing for its business.

Reader Comments

steve baker

July 13, 2005 10:36 AM

The Coke commercial I want to see remade features that Brazilian song, Aguas de Março.

Drue Jordan

July 13, 2005 6:53 PM

So what?

Some of us AARPers drink Coke, and maybe we would be attracted to the product by ads that are grooooveeee.

Howard Yu

July 18, 2005 12:10 AM

i actually think the song was pretty good. The melody is quite catchy. The lyrics i liked too. The world has to chill a little more often these days. So suck on this... "I'd like to teach the world to chill, take time to stop and smile. I'd like to buy the world a Coke and chill with it a while. I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company."

christopher sans souci

August 1, 2005 12:05 AM

Kiley is exactly right. The 'Chilltop' commercial does not even compare to the original. The 'Hilltop' ad was about unity, friendship, and internationalism. The remake is too USA-centric and gets completely tacky when the singer anounces his name at the end. Most disappointing is the fact that Coke and its ad agency had a chance to grab the world again with those themes in the original ad, but failed miserably.


August 3, 2005 5:48 PM

I think the new cola ad is GREAT. I think it really gets to the younger crowd and as someone from the older crowd, I like it that they once again have taken something from our era and made it work for them. As far as a white rapper, in the old ad was anyone suppose to be famous, or was it just a bunch of kids hanging out, wishing the whole world could just get along?

Rebekah J

August 4, 2005 11:50 AM

i LOVED this coke commercial! i think all coke commercials are really creative, i love watching them!


August 21, 2005 9:21 PM

As someone from the 18-24 bracket, I HATE this commercial every time I see it. There's way too much catering to the younger crowd that comes off as way to insincere.


August 22, 2005 3:33 PM

Great commercial, and G-love is awesome... Kiley what are you talking about

Ka Xiong

August 26, 2005 7:34 PM

I love "Chilltop." It's really catchy and so what if it's targeted at a younger group? Besides, with all that is happening in the world, we need these kind of things to keep us going. And yeah, the original one may be about unity but "Chilltop" is about trying to focus on the positive things rather than the negative things. And yeah, maybe the commercial seems a little "choreographed" but which commercial isn't? About the "white rapper," who cares? Let him do his thing. All the people in the commercial come off as being very sincere and wanting to help the world. The objective of the commercial was, however not accomplished. I still haven't tried Coke Zero and don't really care too. I just enjoy seeing the commercial everytime it comes on.


September 2, 2005 10:14 PM

The commercial is horrible, but G. Love is a very talented guitarist, and he and his band are awesome.


September 7, 2005 8:47 PM

Keh, people can't understand. All they think is 'rap' when it's not. It's a much simpler vibe, his words are off rhythm with the beat, yes, so what? It works. It's like a gentle groove that you can really feel. Just because you 'think' it's targetted to the younger crowds doesn't mean squat.

It's a nice tune, it's got a good vibe and if anything it feels really 'hippy-ish' than rap anyday. Get out of your mother's basements please.


September 7, 2005 10:14 PM

This is one of the catchiest songs on the air today. G-Love and Special Sauce really do represent the younger crowd and the Philly area. I think that Kiley is getting a little old to know genuine musicians. G Love is Jack Johnson meets Sublime. A great combination of folk reggae and rock. Thanks G Love!!

Jan Korn

September 9, 2005 1:26 PM

Anyone who liked the "chilltop" ad ought to be slapped until they collapse. What sort of recycled ordure was that? I'm sure I don't believe CocaCola's exhortation to "chill" in an atmosphere of, I believe it was "Peace, love, and harmony" to be sincere. Instead, I believe the executives at the CocaCola company must be totally disconnected from their consumer base, and should be horsewhipped to unconsciousness by their shareholders.


September 15, 2005 3:40 AM

Actually. I loved the ad. I've been trying to find just that version of the song, the chill version, so i can download it and sing along. I saw it in the movie theaters and i cant get it out of my head its so catchy. the hilltop one sucks in my opinion, i hate it :(


September 18, 2005 2:16 AM

While the older crowd may not appreciate the commercial as much as teens do--understandably--it's important to accept that ads for products like Coca Cola would be aimed at younger crowds, so they'd have to appeal with things the younger crowds would be interested in. I'm fifteen and I love the ad, but I can understand why older people who were around when the earlier song came out wouldn't like this one as much. It doesn't make it crap, though, it just makes it different. It all depends on who they're trying to sell the product to--it would simply be stupid for a 20-year-old girl to model for Anti-Aging/Wrinkle makeup for women, so why would you do that? You wouldn't. They use older women because that's who it's aimed for. It would be kind of awkward for a bunch of 50-year-old hippies to be rocking to the Coca Cola song if they want to attract positive attention. I think it's cool that Coca Cola added a flair of our generation to a song from the generation of our parents, and I commend them for their creativity.

Lamar Cole

September 27, 2005 3:09 PM

Love is two people sipping Coca Cola from the same straw on a warm sunny day.


September 30, 2005 7:01 PM

G-Love is a great musician who kicks on guitar, harmonica and his style is kind of a bluesy hip-hop-funk style. This ad may not appeal to the Brittney Spears teenage generation, but I totally dig the song (25 years old). In fact, I tripped over this article while searching to see if it was a free download out there somewhere. I was actually really excited to see G. Love on a Coke commercial. He is kind of on the verge of main stream, where you probably don't hear him on the radio, but 20-somethings who are into music may have gone to see him live (and had a blast). I've seen him play with Jack Johnson, who is really well established, and with Slightly Stoopid, who is still more of an underground band. Kiley, the reason the music didn't appeal to you is because you are probably an older guy who hasn't ever listened to G. Love!

Harry Hedger

October 6, 2005 1:10 AM

Give me a break. I'm a 19 year old college student who feels that Hilltop and Chilltop were both garbage. Why? Well, its all fine and great that they're trying to be positive with their message and you may feel that the people were "sincere" but heres the thing:

IT COMES FROM A COMPANY TRYING TO GET YOU TO BUY THEIR PRODUCT! This isn't a clip of some people spontaneously hanging out on a rooftop, singing a song and wanting to inspire love in people. These are paid actors and musicians who were hired by a corporation to move a product. Where's the sincerity in that?? They align their products to a certain image or idea (peace, being 'hip') so you think "Hey, I want to be like that, maybe if I buy a coke I could be cool like them." Who the hell, may I ask, says, "Hey guys, you wanna go chill on a rooftop and sing about drinking Coke?" Uh, no one! I agree with Riley, they tried a little too hard to make Coke Zero (which tastes pretty awful) look cool. What makes me scream in frustration is that there are people who actually buy into such blatant hypnotism. Give me a break.

Lamar Cole

October 7, 2005 10:50 PM

Love is two people sipping Coca Cola from the same straw on a warm sunny day.


October 12, 2005 7:26 PM

As a younger (22) year old in the marketing industry, I have to say the success of this ad is 50/50. Personally I love it; it's a catchy tune and did inspire me to go out and try their product. On the other side, I know many people my own age who can't stand to hear or watch it. Our generations idea of what's "cool" is very split, and ads that attempt to grasp the younger generation as a whole will have a hard time doing so.


October 20, 2005 10:32 PM

Hey, I'm 17 and everytime my friends and I go into a movie we wait for that ad to come and and sing along to it. Everyone I know loves that ad and knows all the words to it. So if your trying to get your product known and out there where people want to buy it (and believe me my age group is one of the biggest for coke)this ad is truly awesome. Just thought you would like to know.


David Young and Joey manderino

October 26, 2005 11:46 PM

Check out this spoof of the Coke zero commercial and then Send it to your friends!!!


October 27, 2005 8:43 AM

you naysayers are all morons.


November 14, 2005 9:00 PM

Was this commercial a bit cheesy? Yea, sure. I can see some validity to your opinion here. I just have a problem with the G Love reference. As someone in the college aged demographic Coke was trying to sell to, G Love actually was the perfect choice. G Love has been "underground" since the 90s and is extremely popular among college campuses. So as for him trying too hard to be a "white rapper", not at all, he's a funk artist with a full band (special sauce) and guitar and harmonica skills like crazy. It's very understanding that someone in your demographic wouldn't know of G Love and would just imagine him to be some corporate write off though. No offense or anything, just a big fan.


December 19, 2005 2:43 AM

Well I haven't seen the “Chilltop” commercial in months, it being December, and the Coca-Cola corporation has clearly changed its commercial marketing spots to feature a depressingly weak young-executive-sharing-the-secret-recipe-of-coke-zero-with-the-world-despite-bucking-corporate-policy motif, which if nothing more represents the antithesis of the entertaining advertisement. That said, even if you hated the G. Love commercial how could you not suffer it more easily than the ad-swill being peddled now. As for my opinion on the G. Love commercial itself, I cannot help feeling an affinity for it. For most like me, hailing from suburban Philadelphia and falling in the 18-24 age bracket, the commercial establishes an immediate connection, though not necessarily an affinity, as it exploits a pre-determined familiarity with the artist G. Love whose style and native status make him easily likeable regardless of being “listenable.” The parallel with the hilltop commercial seems more like a convenient vehicle for coke to attempt to bridge its target audience of the present with the target audience of the seventies and potentially ingratiate the product with at the least a select few from that older crowd as well. From the microcosmic perspective of the Philadelphia media market, the choice of G. Love and Special Sauce to represent a globally popular product lends “Chilltop” a remarkable likeability to the spot, which cleverly makes it difficult, but not impossible, to completely abhor the commercial as a whole. On a macrocosmic scale, a significantly smaller demographic would boast a prior knowledge of G. Love et al. and of those, fewer still would enjoy his work while perhaps only selected expatriated Philadelphians would share the aforementioned native kin-ship with the artist. In that sense, I think most of the above criticisms in previous posts prove legitimate on a national basis. In fact immediately after the first time I saw “Chilltop” my friends and I immediately questioned whether the commercial was media market specific. We originally hypothesized that perhaps Coca-Cola had launched a campaign, which featured several different versions of the “Chilltop” advertisement, utilizing musical talent specifically associated with certain media locales, in other words a different version of the commercial for Chicago, New York, L.A., etcetera with artists native to those areas with varying degrees of fame. That plan might have ingratiated “Chilltop” and hence Coke Zero more readily with a larger national, though sectionalized, audience. Subsequently learning that the G. Love ad served as the national ad-campaign proved startling. In that sense, I can understand the criticism and how the commercial might prove a flop on that national level. That said, I think Coke Zero is awful. Thus marketing schemes seem the least of Coca-Cola problems as I feel the product has no integrity itself. Clearly I have put too much thought into this, but no one has posted in months so I might as well leave a gratuitously long entry. At this point, since the campaign has concluded, who will really read this anyway?


March 7, 2006 11:45 PM

Hey I'm actually in the original commercial, and wanted to give kudos on the coke zero spoof. It's really funny.


January 22, 2009 2:14 PM

It's been a long time since I saw this commercial, but I didn't realize that many people paid attention to commercials...anyways if you are a fan of G-Love you tend to think the commercial is great, just his style - if you aren't, you probably just don't get it.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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