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How THAT iconic Coke ad only happened because of an Irish airport and bad weather

The ad from the Mad Men finale? Chalk it up to a long wait at Shannon.

IT’S ONE OF the most iconic advertisements ever made: the 1971 ‘I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke’ commercial.

Featured in last night’s Mad Men finale, the ad shows a group of young people singing about unity on a hilltop, holding bottles of Coke.

And it only happened because of Ireland and bad weather.

(This article is spoiler free. For more details on the Mad Men finale, see here.)

But the ad only came into being because the creative director of Coke’s ad agency got stranded in the west of Ireland on a miserable Irish day.

Bill Backer, a real executive at agency McCann Erickson – featured in Mad Men as a competitor to Sterling Cooper – was flying to London to make a Coke ad when heavy fog forced the plane to land at Shannon Airport.

With nothing to do except sit in the airport, Backer watched his fellow passengers:

Passengers had to remain near the airport in case the fog lifted. Some of them were furious about their accommodations. By the next day, Backer saw some of the most irate passengers in the airport cafe. Brought together by a common experience, many were now laughing and sharing stories over snacks and bottles of Coca-Cola.

It was that moment, he wrote – seeing people sitting over bottles of Coke in Co Clare in 1971 – that gave him the idea for what would become one of the world’s most famous and enduring TV commercials.

In that moment [I] saw a bottle of Coke in a whole new light… [I] began to see the familiar words, ‘Let’s have a Coke,’ as more than an invitation to pause for refreshment. They were actually a subtle way of saying, ‘Let’s keep each other company for a little while.’ And [I] knew they were being said all over the world as [I] sat there in Ireland.

Backer eventually made it to London, met with members of The New Seekers, and began to put the promo together. The rest is TV-commercial history.

Source: CokeConversations/YouTube

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Michael Freeman

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