What if empty Coke bottles were never thrown away?
It’s a great question. Plastic pop bottles are one of the most iconic symbols of modern waste culture. We see them littered all over our public spaces, so much so that many American national parks have restricted their sale. Metropolitan hubs like San Francisco have outlawed the sale of plastic water bottles entirely as recently as this year. With a market growing in awareness and, albeit slow, adapting government response, Coke has come up with a new strategy to reduce the total waste of its product. I do have a few questions with this initiative, but all in all it accounts for a step towards resourcefulness and promotes better understanding of the repercussions of one-time-use plastics. Oh, and it makes Coca-Cola look like moral torchbearers.
So, this video is a promotional piece to advertise Coke’s new plan to incorporate attachable accessories that replace the cap and give new purpose to the empty coke bottle. The original plan calls for the distribution of 40,000 attachments throughout Vietnam in packs of sixteen, included in the purchase of their product, free. Included among the ingenuity are pencil sharpeners, nightlight, bubble blowers, paint dabbers, water gun, spray nozzle, etc, etc, etc. After Vietnam, the commercial tells the viewer that it plans to spread this idea around Asia.
The commercial itself is top quality and to be expected from Coca-Cola. They’ve recently produced forward-thinking commercials like “America is Beautiful“, what amounted to mild controversy for supporting and presenting American cultural diversity. This video is designed to show the attachments in use, by happy consumers of all ages. It’s set to an old-timey song, giving it a sprinkle of vintage amidst all the quick shots of smiles and fun. It asks the viewer to imagine the life of a Coke bottle post-consumption and validates possibilities that aren’t set in a landfill. The casting is primarily children and the elderly as an assertion of the multi-generational product appeal, and plus, they feature two demographics that tend to melt hearts.
Looking at this critically, this is a well-calculated PR move to bolster the green esteem of a product that is fundamentally the opposite of that claim. These attachments do encourage people to repurpose what would otherwise be trash, all the while keeping the Coke logo and bottle design central to the reinvention. The viewer is left under the impression that Coca-Cola is taking a proactive stance in bettering the environment. Well, there are still islands of plastic floating in the pacific, you do have to buy more of their plastic products in order to acquire the new plastic caps (instead of using the ones already laying around), and it’s yet to be seen if the novelty appeal will have a lasting effect or just become the extended shoreline of one of these plastic ocean landmasses.
It’s always important to look critically at these ads, especially ones that push for environmental change. The commercial itself as a work of visual media is extremely effective. It’s pulls an emotional response, makes you feel like a responsible consumer for your Coke purchase, and ties in nicely with Coke’s current trajectory. Though these products are destined for the Asian market, it would be interesting to see if they end up translating well in Western markets. “Green washing” is the popular term used in the marketing world to describe this shift towards cleaning a brand’s image through environmental consciousness. Take it as faddism or authentic change, it still remains an impressive innovation that has the potential pressure other companies to adopt similar changes–something we can all benefit from.