Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

What was Coca-Cola Thinking?

Updated Sep 27, 2018 02:11pm
Why Coke’s latest commercial is a severe letdown.

Momina Mustehsan has done a new ad for Coca-Cola and it is a perfect lesson in everything that a commercial shouldn’t be. Watching the ad was like seeing someone dance awkwardly at a mehndi and refusing to get off the dance floor. You knew that it was a disaster unfolding, yet you couldn’t look away – it was cringe inducing, mind numbing and embarrassing.

I was surprised that Coca-Cola would allow such an outdated and uninspiring concept to ever be turned into an ad. The ad centres on Mustehsan walking with a bottle of coke in one hand, and some sheets of music in the other. The wind blows said sheets of paper away and she sets her coke down on what turns out to be a moving platform that a construction worker/billboard installer (Tony Kakkar – without any safety gear in place) is using to be hoisted up. She tries to call out to him, but he can’t hear her because of his headphones (another safety hazard).

A traditional music band, standing idly near the scene of action, starts to beat their dhols as soon as Mustehsan is done shouting out. The noise of the drums causes the bottle to teeter, and Mustehsan realises that she could use the power of sound to tip the bottle over from the rising platform — and defying logic and science, she would then be able to catch it and drink it.


I could expect a concept like this, with a low budget execution, to come from Waseem Hassan (Of ‘Axcuse me – Aap bhi’ ads), but certainly not from a brand of Coca-Cola’s stature. The storyline was an insult to my intelligence and the execution let me down further. The ad felt contrived, inauthentic and pointless – the sub-par acting did not help either.


Her master plan of an idea spreads through the crowd, perhaps through telepathy, and suddenly dozens of people, all miraculously dressed in yellow and red appear out of nowhere and join in the singing and clapping. Mustehsan sings to the bottle, which is about to fall when the construction worker/billboard installer picks up the bottle and takes a giant swig. More nonsense follows (I’ve typed enough already), and eventually a Coca Cola truck appears and everyone gets a drink. Meanwhile, I am inches away from banging my head on the wall.

I could expect a concept like this, with a low budget execution, to come from Waseem Hassan (Of ‘Axcuse me – Aap bhi’ ads), but certainly not from a brand of Coca-Cola’s stature. The storyline was an insult to my intelligence and the execution let me down further. The ad felt contrived, inauthentic and pointless – the sub-par acting did not help either.

I accept that advertising is about pushing creative boundaries and feeding the imagination, but I do not want to waste my time putting sense into something in the name of creative thinking. There are certain brands whose reputation sets an expectation from them. Coca-Cola is that brand for me. When I see a Coca-Cola ad, I want to see an interesting narrative. I want to see something clever, punchy, entertaining and memorable. I want to feel goose bumps and be inspired. I want to believe that anything is possible.

Unfortunately, this ad left me with nothing stimulating.

As I always look for something positive in a creative body of work, so for this ad, I think the saving grace could perhaps be the song. Personally, I am not a fan, but I can understand why Coca-Cola selected it as their anthem – it has rhythm, beat and sing-along-ability. Also, having Mustehsan as the main character in the ad guarantees that her fans will follow the ad and appreciate it – a clever choice and one that seems to be working, as evidenced by the enthusiastic comments people are leaving on the Facebook page for Coca-Cola.

Sheherzad Kaleem is a documentary filmmaker based in Dubai. sheherzadk@gmail.com