Dulce et decorum est pro cola mori

Posted on November 12th, 2007

Every November 11th, I watch Saving Private Ryan and give thanks I've never been in anything worse than a snowball fight. Mind you, observing a moment of silence with my preschooler is a war unto itself ("Shhh. No talking, sweetie... Because I said so... To honour war veterans... Well, like your great-grandfather who was put in a camp... No, different from Camp Manawaka").

Of course, advertising has its own Hundred Years' War.

Pepsi-Cola was created in 1898, but Coca-Cola had a twelve-year head start and effectively monopolized the cola market for decades. Pepsi actually went bankrupt twice, in 1923 and 1931. The latter was the same year Haddon Sundbloom's illustration for a Coke billboard gave us the the modern image of Santa Claus, incidentally. But in 1934, at the height of the Great Depression, Pepsi hit on the idea of selling twelve-ounce bottles for a nickel, while Coke was selling six-ounce bottles for the same price. It was literally the poor man's Coke and they netted $9.5 million in the next three years. In 1938, Pepsi doubled its 1936 profits.

Thus began the Cola War.

Pepsi scored the first nationally broadcast radio jingle. Listeners called in and asked radio stations to play it and Pepsi released more than one million copies for jukeboxes. During WWII, Coke allied itself with the War Department as a non-alcoholic morale booster for the troops. As crazy as it sounds, the U.S. government funded sixty-four Coca-Cola bottling plants behind Allied lines that advanced with the battlefront.


In 1950, Time magazine put the Coca-Cola logo on their cover, force-feeding the planet a Coke. Amazingly, nobody thought this was terrifyingly creepy. Pepsi vented by reprinting a Walter Winchell quote in their newsletter: "Time mag usually pummels its Front Cover subject. But Coca-Cola is given the Kid Glove Treatment. Moral: It Pays to Advertise."

Coke Time Cover

It's 4:53 a.m. and I have a big meeting in the morning, so let's just fast forward to the '80s, when shit really got nasty...





Well, maybe not in terms of sales, but that was the only ad of the four that didn't suck. Speaking of suck:

What the hell was that? The worst part is I probably thought it was cool when it first ran.

It's died down since the 80s, but the war rages on, as life imitates art.


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