The Real Don Draper – Who Made the Coke Ad?

The Real Don Draper Mad Men - Who Made the Coke Ad

For fans of the TV series Mad Men, Sunday nights will never be the same now that the seventh and final season of the show has come to an end. There is still a lot of buzz about the final season and final episode. Many of the show’s fans have mixed feelings on the final season, wishing the writers had spent more time on different characters or plot points than they did. Others were satisfied with the final scene of the show, implying that Don Draper went on to create the iconic “Hilltop” Coke commercial with the “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” soundtrack.

This may have left you wondering who was behind the famous Coke commercial we still talk about today.

VICE did a great “true story” episode to find “The Real Don Draper”. It’s an interesting documentary about George Lois, considered by many to be a leader of the Creative Revolution, working on defining campaigns for brands like Xerox, Jiffy Lube, MTV, Tommy Hilfiger, and more. The YouTube video of the episode (below) is a definitely worth watching to anyone interested in the history of marketing and advertising. Especially if you’re interested in the dark side of advertising and human nature – the stuff we love to hate about Don Draper.

While I certainly agree that George Lois is the type of person the Don Draper character from Mad Men represents, and George Lois is credited with (or fraudulently takes credit for, depending on who you ask) some of the most memorable campaigns and logos in advertising history (watch the video!), he is not the only real-life Mad Man credited with inspiring the character Don Draper, and he is not creative genius behind the famous “Hilltop” Coke commercial featured in the final scene of Mad Men.

In real life, awesome advertising campaigns are more often the collaborative effort of a strong creative team, and not the efforts of a single ‘Mad Man’ – and so was the case with the Coke “Hilltop” commercial. As the interview above points out, it was Bill Backer, the creative director on the Coca-Cola account at McCann-Erickson (Mad Men got the agency right, anyway) who penned the line “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” while at an airport. The story behind the song is told above.

However, it was art director Harvey Gabor who had the idea to create “The First United Chorus of the World”, transforming Bill Backer’s song into a “joyous celebration of unity”, which really is the reason this has become one of the most memorable commercials in history. Harvey has received numerous awards and accolades for his work in print and television.

The reason I know this little fact about Harvey’s value-add is because back in 2012, to celebrate Internet advertising turning 18 years old, Google created Project Re:Brief. The goal of the project was to help today’s digital advertisers “think outside the box” and try to inspire them to become more creative, using the tools available today to connect, engage, and entertain their target audience. You can still visit this site today, and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for some inspiration.

Who REALLY made the iconic Coke commercial?

Find out more about who REALLY made the iconic Coke commercial.

The project took four of the most iconic commercials of all time and asked the legendary creatives behind them to re-imagine them for the digital age. Harvey was tapped for the Coke commercial re-imagining.

They took the original brief, “Demonstrate Coca-Cola’s power to connect people while highlighting the global ambitions of the Coca-Cola brand“, and re-imagined the campaign for the modern age. This time, the campaign literally enabled people to “buy the world a Coke” using Google’s display advertising platform and a series of specially-developed vending machines.

As the Google Project Re:Brief website describes, “In the spirit of the original work, users can record a message and send it with a Coca-Cola to connect with someone on the other side of the world. The receiver can then respond with a text or video message, completing the connection.”

I have to say, Project Re:Brief was a really cool concept that was so well-done that I remembered it the second I watched the final scene of the final episode of Mad Men. I recommend checking it out, because I think it can still inspire marketers to be as creative, resourceful, and unconventional as our beloved antihero, Don Draper.


About Angela Davis

Angela is an online marketing consultant, designer, freelance writer, and photographer for hire. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingAngelaD