It's been a rough couple of years for Coca-Cola.
Sugary soda has been deemed public enemy No. 1 in the battle against obesity and diabetes and "Coke" is like "Kleenex." They don't make all the soft drinks (just as Kleenex doesn't make all the tissue), and the company produces all sorts of beverages, but it's sort of the go-to word for drinks that are fizzy and sweet and bad for you.
So there's that ongoing PR battle, similar to the one McDonald's has, to maintain the brand's good name and still move with the times.
Last month the Coca-Cola Company traded its 7-year-old "Open Happiness" slogan in for "Taste the Feeling," which will encompass all of the 130-year-old beverage behemoth's Coke varieties, including Diet Coke and Coke Zero. And notably, they made the move just in time for Super Bowl 50.
The one place where the brand is used to shining has proved to be a bit of a minefield lately. Coca-Cola is known for its Super Bowl ads, which—if not all of them unforgettable classics like "Mean Joe Green" in 1979—are usually among the best of the increasingly motley bunch.
That streak didn't really end in 2014—rather, in all sane circles, it was the consensus that Coca-Cola raised its game for Super Bowl XLVIII with the "It's Beautiful" spot, featuring heartwarming, uplifting, family-friendly scenarios full of people of an array of races, ethnicities and religions set to "America the Beautiful" being sung in a variety of languages.
You'd think everyone would be applauding…but no. Twitter instead did the other thing it does best—served as a soap box for an appalling number of people demanding that Coke "#SpeakAmerican."
Exactly. Ugh is right. (Jeep met a similar fate last year when its Super Bowl XLIX commercial featured "This Land Is Your Land" playing over images of people all over the world, including in China, the Middle East, India and the Australian Outback.)
"It's Beautiful" hearkened back to the famous "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" commercial from 1971 that was used help Don Draper reach advertising nirvana on the Mad Men finale (which hadn't aired yet by the time of the 2014 Super Bowl), and seemingly hit all the right buttons. Alas, people were put off by… inclusivity!
"We believe 'It's Beautiful' is a great example of the magic that makes our country so special, and a powerful message that spreads optimism, promotes inclusion and celebrates humanity—values that are core to Coca-Cola," the company said in a statement in response to the shocking backlash.
So last year Coca-Cola reined it way in for Super Bowl XLIX, buying one spot and filling it with "Make It Happy," featuring an employee at the warehouse full of servers that keeps the Internet running accidentally spilling his Coke onto the world's computer circuity and thereby spreading positivity (instead of the negativity we're so used to seeing) all over the Internet.
Too bad that guy showed up a year too late.
While an offended public took major issue with "It's Beautiful," "Make It Happy" was perfectly...fine. No complaints on impact. Later, however, Coca-Cola had to take its #MakeItHappy image generator down because people were abusing the tool.
As yet, mischievous types haven't yet ruined Coca-Cola's GIF the Feeling website, which has users combine a proffered upbeat clip with their own taglines and will surely be reincorporated into the celebration on game day. (According to The Atlantic, Coca-Cola Company learned its lesson from the #MakeItHappy campaign and now has a filter to weed out unsavory words—but still politely invites you to try again if you try to sneak one it.)
So what's on tap for Super Bowl 50? And will be people be able to friggin' handle themselves this year?
Well, it seems that everyone's pants should remain firmly un-bunched. Since certain corners of the twitterverse have proved that they can't be trusted with attempts at bringing people together, Coca-Cola is reaching for the oldest play in the book and going for unquestionable mass appeal.
Coke's 60-second Super Bowl 50 commercial will feature...
Joined by Black Widow, Iron Man, Hulk, Falcon and Ant-Man!
Coca-Cola, which unlike many other brands will not be releasing its full ad ahead of Sunday's big game, teased its intentions this week by sending out six mini-cans to the media, each featuring an artistic rendering of the face (or mask) of these Marvel Comics superheroes. No word on whether they're saving Thor for the main event...
"02.07.16. The Big Game is just the beginning. Follow @CocaCola to watch the story unfold," the company encouraged on an invitation tucked in with the cans.
So there you have it. One of the most iconic American brands is returning inside the box and going multiplex-mainstream for Super Bowl 50.
There are no details available yet as to what the characters are up to in the spot, which is set to air during the second quarter, or whether Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Paul Rudd, Anthony Mackie and Mark Ruffalo are newly involved.
But if the Avengers can't get you to buy the world a Coke, who can?