In my nearly six years at The Coca-Cola Company, I’ve worked alongside some of the most intelligent and talented people in the ad world. Yes, I say the “ad” world, because even though we are the world’s premier beverage company, we are also one of the greatest advertisers.
As group director of multimedia productions and agency operations, my team works closely with our broader integrated marketing communications (IMC) and brand teams to create creative that’s fun, relevant and thought provoking. In order to create this content, I interface with brilliant creative minds daily – both here at Coke and with our industry partners around the world.
For more than 130 years, The Coca-Cola Company has been synonymous with great advertising. In that time, it has used social icons from Norman Rockwell to LeBron James to help spread its message of unity. Yes, Coca-Cola has helped define American pop culture, but even more importantly, our company has always been willing to take risks in order to help shape our values.
Take, for instance, “It’s Beautiful” our 2014 Big Game ad, which featured a diverse group of citizens singing “America the Beautiful” in multiple languages. Coca-Cola has always had a history of speaking out on the importance of diversity and unity. I would argue that we are the advertising leader it is today because of our willingness to stand up for what it right.
On March 25, I got a chance to work on perhaps Coke’s most iconic commercial – the 1971 classic, “Hilltop”. Filmed in Italy, the spot celebrates the diversity of cultures from all around the globe by showing people coming together to sing a song of unity. It was so popular that its soundtrack, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”, became a hit single. The original 35mm footage on which the commercial was filmed sits in a vault in the Library of Congress, where American culture is preserved.
So what was I doing with the original footage almost 45 years later? Technically speaking, I was remastering the 35mm film for 4K Television, and color-correcting it. In layman terms, that means I was preserving an iconic gem for a new generation.
I cannot even begin to explain what an honor this was for me. Sitting in a dark color-correction bay, I got chance to really study the footage. And even though the color might have needed some updating, I marveled at how this commercial continued to resonate with me and the world around me. I was reminded of how truly ahead of its time it was… and still is.
Forty-five years ago, Coca-Cola asked the world to come together on a hilltop in Italy. Today, as I sit in a dark room polishing this gem, I am reminded of our company’s incredible advertising history. I feel inspired by my forebears. It has been an enlightening day for me, and I am humbled by the small role I get to play in all of it. I only wish I could share this moment with some of the original creatives.
Sarah Traverso (on the right in the photo above) is director of multimedia production for Coca-Cola North America.