The Coca Cola Advert That's Actually Quite Refreshing
If you haven't seen Coca Cola's latest advert yet, 'Pool Boy', you should.
You're pretty spot on if you've already imagined a topless, sun-kissed, Adonis of a man semi-nakely using his giant pole to clean a swimming pool.
Cut to: teenage girl gazing longingly at hot pool boy. Because, just like in previous Coke adverts, that's what girls do, right? (Detect sarcasm here).
Sex sells. I know that and I don't even work in advertising.
Coke knows it, too. This isn’t the first time their adverts have used sexualisation to try and flog their drinks.Admittedly, the festive adverts with Santa’s face on the back of a giant red lorry don’t quite ooze sex appeal, but that says something else about the efficacy of nostalgia.
Their sexy gardener advert became a huge viral hit, and it’s easy to see why. Incredibly hot man gets smothered in coke (which drenches him in the same manner of a climaxing penis). Hot man takes off his t-shirt revealing, surprise surprise, a jaw-droppingly ripped bod. Hot man with ripped bod quenches thirst by drinking Coke.
“That looks like the most amazing can of Coke I’ve ever seen,” my housemate says, as we re-watch the ad.
Applause. Well done Coke; job done.
Now, I can appreciate a hot guy with a great body as much as the next person. But this advert also throws up questions about gender roles, specifically about sexual objectification in the media. Would it be acceptable to have a group of five men encouraging a woman to get wet and strip off her top? I think not, but that’s a conversation for another time.
It seems that sexualisation in advertising, sadly, is pretty effective.
Matthew Todd is the former Editor-in-Chief of gay magazine, Attitude. He is also the author of what should become essential reading for both the LGBTQ community and straight community, Straight Jacket: How to be Gay and Happy.
(Not to preach, but seriously, you should read it).
Just this week, I accidentally found myself sat next to Matthew at a book club. Accidentally, as in, I didn’t know it was a book club, but I was too far past the threshold to turn around once I realised what I was walking in to.
Thank fuck I'd read the book.
Talk soon turned to the issue of body image. Matthew spoke proudly at having put both a lesbian and a black gay man on Attitude’s cover for the first time. But he also told us that the issue with Stephen Fry on the front was the lowest selling issue of all time. And the pattern was repeated every time there wasn’t a scantily clad hottie on the front for everyone to wank over.
Like I, and Coke, thought, sex evidently does sell.
But back to the pool boy, effortlessly gliding his rod through the water, who has understandably caught the attention of a teenage girl watching from the house.
The camera pans up to another bedroom overlooking the pool below. The girl’s brother, dressed in pink (subtlety at it’s best here), similarly lusting after the pool boy.
Hold the phone. A teenage boy? Perving on another boy?
What follows is a comical, albeit well-shot, slow motion race between the siblings, both desperate to be the first to give the pool boy a bottle of Coke.
The advert might not seem like much more than a suburban dream to many (come on, who wouldn’t want their own pool?), but there’s a lot that’s actually very refreshing about it.
Firstly, the Coke looks damn good. But most importantly is the inclusion of this brother, fearlessly waving the flag for the LGBT+ community in his virtually neon clothing.
The implications of this shouldn’t be underplayed.
In my work as a journalist, I’ve interviewed countless gay men with varying degrees of mental health problems, ranging from porn addictions to body dysmorphia and a whole array of others. The common thread underlying a lot of these issues: shame.
What this advert does for gay people still living in the closet around the world, and for other members of the lGBTQ+ community, is offer a bit of hope.
Not just hope that they might be able to fight for the hot boy, too, but that they might be able to fight for the hot boy openly, with the support of the people who are supposed to love you the most, your family.
How different the world would look if anyone LGBT+, or indeed anyone belonging to any minority, never grew up with the scarring effects of shame, which so many people still do today.
How completely normal LGBT+ people would feel if there were more representations of our community like this in the media; uncomplicated, ordinary, and accepted.
Society is often quick to jump on the negative impacts of the media. The LGBT+ community can often be its own worst enemy for this. As aforementioned, this advert isn’t without its controversy (objectification/gender roles etc).
But it’s refreshing to see a piece of work which, tied into its marketing purpose, has a positive agenda, too.