Coca-Cola Company Embraces Its Drug Heritage for Ad Campaign

March 3, 2014 | Bucky Turco

When it was first launched in the late 1800s, Coca-Cola used to have cocaine in it. The company eventually reduced the amount of coca leaf to trace levels and in 1903, when sentiment about the narcotic in the U.S. started changing for the worse, the substance was removed altogether. As the success of the soft drink, commonly referred to as Coke, grew and it became one of America’s most wholesome brands, its druggy past was downplayed and never really capitalized on. Until now.

In the latest campaign Diet Coke that has been emblazoned all around the city, the soda maker is brazenly getting back to its roots. It’s new tagline, incredibly, says “You’re on Coke.” Technically the word “diet” is in there, but no one is really reading it that way.

This is starting to generate a lot of media attention and some vandalism. I wouldn’t be surprised if the brand is a news cycle of outrage away from scrapping the marketing effort altogether. But for now, enjoy this contextual blast from the past and more importantly, the citizen graffiti that goes along with it. It’s just the coke talking.

(Top photo: @david_j_roth / Bottom photo: @Adam Lawrence)