If you’re into advertising you’re probably into Mad Men, which means even if you don’t know the name Bill Backer you’ve seen his work before.
That’s because the 89-year-old, who passed away last Friday over in Virginia, was the force behind the 1971 Coca-Cola advert that ranks amongst the most famous the world has ever seen.
So famous, in fact, that the commercial was featured in the Mad Men finale – which is high praise indeed. Let’s see that advert before we go any further:
The New York Times with more on Backer:
Mr. Backer and his team immortalized jingles and slogans that proclaimed “Things go better with Coke” and defined the soft drink as “the real thing”; declared that Miller Lite was “everything you ever wanted in a beer… and less”; elevated the Campbell’s brand by asserting that “soup is good food”; and allowed that “little girls have pretty curls, but I like Oreo.”
He also anointed the break devoted to beer drinking as “Miller Time,” reserved festive occasions for Löwenbräu (“Here’s to good friends, tonight is kind of special”), and created advertising campaigns for Fisher-Price, Hyundai cars, Parliament cigarettes, Philip Morris, Quaker Foods and Xerox.
Pretty decent CV he’s rocking, and his description of how he came up with the Coke ad concept is one for the ages:
…he was on his way to London in January 1971 to meet with the songwriters Billy Davis and Roger Cook when his flight was diverted by fog to Shannon Airport in Ireland.
The next morning, Mr. Backer was stunned to see the diverse group of passengers who had been angry the night before cheerfully conversing in the coffee shop…
By the time he flew to Liverpool and was bused to fog-shrouded London, he recalled: “I could see and hear a song that treated the whole world as if it were a person — a person the singer would like to help and get to know. I’m not sure how the lyric should start, but I know the last line.”
On a paper napkin, he had scribbled, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.”
See, the creative mind never rests.
Ad agencies the world over can sip on whiskey and light a cigar in the boardroom this week to pay tribute, I’ll try my best to make that happen around these parts too.
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