‘Listen’ to these new print ads from Coca-Cola

[This short story from Forbes by an advertising industry expert describes how a clever new campaign for Coke evokes a vivid sensory presence illusion using only still images and the viewer’s experience. See the original story for larger images of the ad below and two others in the campaign. –Matthew]

‘Listen’ To These New Print Ads From Coca-Cola

Will Burns, an advertising veteran and current CEO of Ideasicle.com.
April 26, 2019

You don’t typically think a print ad can be audible. But Coca-Cola recently launched a print/outdoor campaign in Europe that, despite trying your best, you’ll very likely hear. Not all brands could get away with an idea like this, but Coke can, and did. Here’s why.

First, the ads, then I’ll break down why I think it works. If you click on the images [in the original story], the image and the “sound” will enlarge.

Only works with high familiarity.

An idea like this couldn’t work with a new brand. A new brand doesn’t have the conscious and unconscious familiarity and affinity locked up in our collective mental vaults. But Coke does. We’ve all enjoyed a Coke at some point, right? We’ve all experienced the advertising, the red and white branding, the script logo, the packaging, the bottle caps, the wavy-shaped bottles, the brown color of the liquid, the bubbles, the lip-smacking refreshing taste of a giant swig. And along the way we’ve all experienced the corresponding sounds of the “Coke experience.”

In fact, I’m hankering for a Coke right now after writing that last sentence.

But only after this kind of visceral familiarity with the “Coke experience” can we be teased in the way this campaign is teasing us. Only after lifetimes of experience with this brand and this brand’s product can we be triggered merely by the suggestion of a sound. Not a real sound, but the suggestion of a sound.

These ads are like ghost triggers. The sounds only exist in our minds. They are audible apparitions, yet we swear they exist.

Actual sounds aren’t as loud.

Now, Coke could have chosen to create videos or TV spots where the hero was the actual iconic sounds of the “Coke experience.” A sound designer would have a field day with a bottle cap being opened or the “pshht” of a can being opened or the sound of a zillion bubbles expiring wildly atop the meniscus of a freshly poured Coke.

But they didn’t. They wisely tapped into our intimate familiarity and affinity with the brand/product forcing us to create our own “sounds” straight from our own mental vaults. And you know what? They sound far more delicious and refreshing than anything a sound designer could muster.

Even the ads themselves challenge us to “not” hear these iconic sounds. And of course, given the powers of reverse psychology, we can’t “not” hear them. The dots left open to the reader are immediately and uncontrollably connected in our minds. Which not only makes the mental sounds richer, but reminds us of, and cements, our familiarity and affinity with the Coke brand. But that’s not the most important effect.

These imaginary auditory triggers make us want…the real thing.

Will Burns is CEO/Creative Director of virtual idea-generation firm, Ideasicle. I am also a Brand Consultant. If your brand isn’t speaking to you, you might want to speak to me. T: @WillOBurns.


2 responses to “‘Listen’ to these new print ads from Coca-Cola”

  1. Kelsey Gallagher

    I think this is an amazing and highly-effective advertising campaign by Coca-Cola. Even though it is a print-ad, meaning it employs only still imagery and no audio or video, I immediately heard and envisioned the extremely familiar sound of opening a bottle of Coke. From the perspective of telepresence, this advertisement manages to draw on your sensorial memory of opening a Coke to create that experience that is not occurring physically. You may not have a Coke in hand, but given your high familiarity of the product, you are able to simulate and participate in that same experience of enjoying a Coke when the product is not even present in your environment. This integration of advertising and telepresence is genius!

  2. Cynthia Sardar

    Now listen to these print ads quite interesting, the presence illusion using still images is giving us an excellent illustration with hearing it we could feel the sound. These are ghost triggers definitely because they are giving us a sense of having listened to it while only by watching it. The food and presence have got to evoke the excellent quality of wanting the product just by showing it. They are doing both things in one place.

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