Live

Watch CBSN Live

Coke Wants World To Sing Anew

"I'd like to teach the world to sing." Remember that jingle?

Well, as CBS News Correspondent Joie Chen reports, Coca-Cola is hoping that old classic will help jumpstart a new brand.

If you're old enough, odds are that's one Coke song you'll never get out of your head.

Thirty-four years ago, a 60-second spot shot on an Italian hillside, with a cast of embassy workers in costume, lip-synching to a British pop band, became an advertising legend. It was known as "Hilltop," because of its location.

The song shot up the charts. Fans wrote hundreds of thousands of letters.

Even its creators were taken by surprise.

"Every age liked it," recalls Harvey Gabor, art director for 1971 commercial. "Grandmas sang it. People were singing it in the office. And kids liked it."

Everybody knew the song, whose lyrics were, in part, "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company."

It wasn't just a catchy tune.

"For a kid who looked like me at that time," reflects Chen, who is Asian-American, "the spot was something of a breakthrough. Remember: It was 1971, and what you didn't see a whole lot of on TV were kids who looked like me."

Gabor insists they weren't trying to be politically correct: They were just trying to hit the right note for a worldwide product.

And it worked.

"It didn't start out as, 'This is it!' It was just another spot that hit a nerve, and if you could produce it, you'd bottle it," Gabor says.

Even today, Coke executives are in awe.

"I think we look at it with almost revere and religion," says Katie Bayne, senior vice president of Coca-Cola Brands, North America.

She's leading the charge to promote "Coke Zero," a new, no-calorie brand that she says she sips constantly.

The updated lyrics say in part, "I'd like to teach the world to chill, take time to stop and smile. I'd like to buy the world a Coke and chill with it awhile."

It's the first new version of "Hilltop." Shot on a Philadelphia rooftop, this one is dubbed "Chilltop."

Aimed at the "go-go lifestyle" of 18- to 24-year-olds, it has a new crowd of "fresh faces" but, as Coca-Cola well knows, changing an old favorite is a big risk.

"Absolutely," says Bayne. "This is not new Coke, and we are not doing a thing to Coca-Cola or Diet Coke."

CBS News consultant Barbara Lippert, who is Adweek magazine's advertising critic, doesn't seem all that impressed.

"This one seems to be a real compromise solution. It's not touching and effective enough to reach the older generation, and it's really not cool and hip enough for kids. I don't think it's going to bring a tear to your eye, and I don't think 15-year-olds will be madly dancing and rocking out to the beat.

"It also seems a little under-populated on that rooftop. There are Latinos and various people, and like one Fin. I don't know if it's supposed to be the world's ethnicities again.

"I think they needed to do one thing or the other. It doesn't seem authentic."

What's more, Lippert says, "The world is fragmented now. We have so many other drinks to choose from … it's hard to do one ad that brings the world together."

She adds that she "likes that they don't sell it. They're not aggressive about it. They were trying to make it hip and cool. But what is "Coke Zero"? No one knows. When you drink it, does it make you want to go up to a rooftop and raise your bottle? You don't know what it is."

Lippert says neither Coke nor archrival Pepsi has had a memorable ad in quite awhile.

"Both are vulnerable to all the other drinks out there," she concludes, but "both companies own waters and the other sports drinks, too."