I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke

The debate about Mad Men’s ending may continue for years, but no one can debate the fact that Coca Cola has succeeded in getting the world to buy a Coke.

With the final image of Don Draper meditating on a hillside in an Esalen-like retreat, Mad Men ended its amazing 7 year run with the playing of the 1971 “Hillside” Coca Cola commercial.

As the sun rises behind them, the harmonizing group of smiling, multicultural teenagers dripping with saccharine sincerity and inner peace, “hope to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” by drinking a bottle of Coke.

The imaginary home filled with good vibrations that these peace-niks sang about, the apple tree-shaded one they wished to “buy the world and furnish with love,” would also (if Coke had their way) be furnished with an avocado green fridge filled with icy bottles of Coca Cola.

It’s the Real Thing

Unabashedly and unironically appropriating the hippie culture ethos, this chorus of pure capitalism selling “The Real Thing” represents the ultimate merchandising of the 1960’s.

Buy The World

changes from the 1960s to 1970

Changes (L) Vintage Coke ad 1962

Gone were the wholesome all American teens  we came to expect from Coke fun-filled ads.

Now dressed in culturally appropriate color-blocked dashikis, peasant blouses, and silky kimonos, each wholesome multicultural teen holds the iconic green glass bottle of this magic brown elixir ( each branded in its native tongue) that they hope will help bring peace and harmony to the troubled world…. it is after all “What the world wants today!

The wildly successful commercial (the ad campaign code name was aptly named “Buy The World”) was in perfect harmony with Coke’s marketing strategy and the way Coca Cola had been extending itself globally for decades.

What the World Wants Today

vintage WWII Coke ad 1945 Admiralty Isles illustration soldiers and natives and bottles of Coke

Vintage ad Coca Cola Admirality Isles, Bikini 1945

Whether hawking peace, love and human connection or freedom, democracy and camaraderie, that corporate colossus has accomplished the coca-colonization of the world which began long before the “Hillside” ad ran in the summer of 1971.

Coke had long advertised itself as offering a bit of commonality across the globe.

Nearly thirty years earlier during WWII Coke presented itself as an international sign of friendliness.

“Coke has become the high sign between kindly minded strangers the symbol of a friendly way of being,” they explained in one 1944 ad. “Have a Coke’ says he to a stranger and in one simple gesture he has made a friend. In 3 words he has said “You and I understand each other. ”

WWII Advertising: A Global Blitzkrieg

WWII Ad Coca Cola Soldiers illustration

Vintage Coke ad 1942

With the precision used to plan a bombing mission in the South Pacific, Coca Cola calculated their advertising campaign during the War to make sure Coke was seen as vital to wartime morale and essential to Americans and their fighting men.

While the Coca Cola Company was busy boosting the morale of G.I. Joe, they were simultaneously laying the groundwork for becoming an international symbol of refreshment and solidarity.

The Global High Sign… I’d like to Buy the World a Coke

Vintage WWII Coke ad Ireland 44

“How Americans Make Friends in Ireland” Vintage Coke ad 1944

Coke was our secret weapon for world peace

Rather than show war-weary soldiers enjoying their product, Coca Cola focused on Cokes ability to bring people and nations together. The ads carried the catchphrases “The global high sign” and introduced American readers to a few foreign phrases.

Set in exotic locals such as Russia, Newfoundland, and New Zealand the ads portrayed grinning GIs mixing it up and laughing over Cokes with British, Polish, Soviet and other Allies always with a caption along the lines “Have a Coke- a way of saying we’re with you.”

The ad men continually touted the drinks status as an American icon. “Yes around the globe, Coca Cola stands for the pause that refreshes- it has become a symbol of our way of living.”

But it wasn’t just G.I.’s for whom Coke was a symbol of the American way. It was a symbol for the native population as well.

The presence of Coke did more than lift the morale of the troops .

It gave the local people in the different countries their first taste of Coca Cola and paved the way for unprecedented worldwide growth after the war.

Have a Coke – Sealing Friendship in New Zealand

Vintage WWII ad Coke in New Zealand 1944  illustration soldiers and natives

Vintage WWII ad Coke in New Zealand 1944

Kia Ora, says the New Zealander when he wants to give you his best wishes. It’s a down under way of telling you that you’re a pal and that your welfare is a matter of mutual interest. The American soldier says it another way.

Have a Coke, says he, and in three words he has made a friend.

It’s a custom that has followed the flag from the tropics to the polar regions. It’s a phrase that says Welcome, neighbor from Auckland to Albuquerque from New Zealand to New Mexico.

Round the globe, Coca Cola stands for the pause that refreshes – has become the high sign between friendly minded people.

Have a Coca Cola…How to Break the Ice in Iceland

Vintage ad Coke in Iceland 1943

Vintage ad Coke in Iceland 1943

Come be blessed and be happy says the hospitable Icelander when he meets a stranger. That’s a warm way of putting it but no more friendly than the way American soldiers say it. ‘Have a Coke,’ says the dough-boy and it works in Reykjavik as it does in Rochester. The pause that refreshes is the friendly way to say Hi Pal in any language.

Coca Cola has become the gracious ice breaker between kindly minded strangers.

Have a Coke –  How Friends Are Made in the RAF

Vintage Coke ad 1944 illustration soldiers

Vintage Coke ad 1944

Have a Coke is a friendly greeting among RAF flyers back at early dawn from a night mission. It’s a salute among comrades in arms that seals the bonds of friendship in Plymouth England or Plymouth Mass. It’s an offer as welcome on an English airfield as it is in your own living room.

Our fighting men meet up with Coca Cola many places overseas where its bottled on the spot. Coca Cola has been a globe-trotter “since way back when.”

Making Pals in Panama


WWII ad Coke panama 1944

Vintage Coca Cola ad 1944 “Making Pals in Panama”


Being Friendly in Newfoundland

Vintage ad Coca Cola in Newfoundland 1944

Vintage ad Coca Cola in Newfoundland 1944

There is an American way to make new friends in Newfoundland. It’s the cheery invitation Have a Coke an old U.S. custom that is reaching ‘round the world. It says let’s be friends, reminds Yanks of home.

In many lands around the globe, Coke has become the symbol of our friendly home ways.

Have a Coke – You’re My Kind

Vintage WWII ad 1944 Coca Cola

Vintage WWII ad 1944 Coca Cola

There’s a friendly phrase that speaks the allied language. It’s “Have a Coke.

Friendliness enters the picture when ice-cold Coke appears. Over tinkling glasses of ice-cold Coke minds meet and hearts are closer together.

Coke has become an everyday high sign of friendliness among people of good will.


G.I.’s liberating towns throughout Europe or working side by side with locals in the Philippines felt pride in sharing their favorite drink with their new-found friends.


Vintage Coke ad 1945 soldiers in Italy

Vintage Coke ad 1945

One of the interesting things that impresses people overseas about the American fighting man is his friendliness among his fellows. Everywhere they see Americans bringing with them their customs and home-ways-their own brand of open heartedness.

Have a Coke, foreigners hear the G.I.’s say when he wants to be friendly, and they begin to understand what America means. For in this simple gesture is some of the essence of Main Street and the family fireside.

Yes, the custom of the pause that refreshes with ice-cold Coca Cola helps show the world the friendliness of American Ways.


 Yank Friendliness Comes back to Leyte Phillipines

Vintage WWII  ad Coke 1945 Philipines

Vintage WWII ad Coke 1945 Philippines

Naturally Filipinos thrilled when their Yankee comrades-in-arms came back to the Philippines. Freedom came back with them. Fair play took the place of fear. But also they brought back the old sense of friendliness that America stands for. You find it quickly expressed in the simple phrase Have a Coke.

There’s no easier or warmer way to say Relax and be yourself. Everywhere the pause that refreshes with ice-cold Coca Cola has become a symbol of good will – an everyday example of how Yankee friendliness follows the flag around the globe

Winning Minds in Nazi Germany

Despite all American coca cola’s claim that it was the high sign between like-minded strangers the very symbol of patriotism, democracy and freedom, no mention was ever made to the fact that Coca Cola was doing business in Nazi Germany.

In the midst of their global advertising blitzkrieg, patriotic Coca Cola appeared at Hitler youth rallies as Coca Cola trucks accompanied the marchers hoping to capture the next generation.

“Mach Doch mal Pauss (Come on Take A Break) …Have a Coke – or winning minds in Nazi Germany” was one ad that we would never see.

Coca-Colonization Post War

Vintage ad Coke in Alaska

Vintage ad Coca Cola in Alaska

WWII did more than perpetuate an image – it also led to Coke’s dominance abroad.

They created an enormous consumer base throughout the world that would not have been possible without General Eisenhower and the Coca Cola Company’s cooperation working towards bettering the morale of the American fighting man.

After gulping down more than a billion servings of Coke, 11 million veterans returned with a lifelong attachment to the soft drink. But it wasn’t only Americans who got hooked on the sweet elixir.

Many of the bottling plants established overseas during the war continued to operate as non military factories after the war. When the war ended, the coca cola company had 63 overseas bottling plants in operation in venues as far-flung as Egypt, Iceland, Iran, West Africa and New Guinea.

vintage Coke ad illustration family on a picnic

The idyllic post war world of Coca Cola fit in perfectly with the “Hilltop” commercial images “Grow apple trees and honeybees and snow white turtle doves.” Vintage Coca Cola ad 1946

During the war drinking Coke became  synonymous with fighting the enemies of freedom and democracy .

Now post war Americans would help underdeveloped countries improve their lives and know the real joy of good living by exporting American consumer goods helping them to better resist Communist pressures.

With our sparkling pepsodent smiles, Americans would meet our obligation to the free world-spreading democracy and offering a helping hand to people all around the globe-a coke in every Frigidaire and a Chevy in every garage. The path to the future would be bright and profitable

Globe Trotting With Coke

Vintage Coke ad Acapulco 1957

“In exotic Acapulco- Here too you find the pause that refreshes with ice cold coca cola. Because good taste itself is universal enjoyment of Coca Cola has become a welcomed social custom in over 100 countries. The best loved drink in all the world. Artist Robert Fawcett captures a moment of companionship in Mexico’s famous Acapulco. Vintage Coke ad 1957

Thanks to the dawning of the jet age, mid-century Americans were traveling out into the cold war world as never before and they knew coke would help them find new friends in this new global community linked by Coca Cola-“A recognized symbol recognition of friendliness and good taste.”

In 1956 Coke took their advertising business to McCann Erikson who produced these series of ads ads directed at this new international set, many illustrated by Jack Potter.

India …Coca Cola -Favorite of the World

coke India 57 SWScan04784 - Copy

“From a Maharajas Palace in far off India comes another interpretation from the brush of young Jack Potter.” Vintage Coke ad 1957. I was fortunate to have taken a class “Drawing and Thinking” with Jack Potter, the innovative illustrator who taught drawing and conceptual thinking at School of Visual Arts, after a highly successful career as an illustrator.

In ever widening circles. the uniquely pleasant taste of Coca Cola wins fresh appreciation and new friends.

Through more than 100 countries more than 58 million times a day someone enjoys the special flavor the welcome little lift of Coke. This remarkable endorsement has won for Coca Cola a gracious badge of good taste that’s all its own…recognized everywhere.

The best loved drink in the world.

Spring Time Paris…Goes Better With a Coke

Vintage Coca Cola ad Paris Illustration Jack Potter

“Enjoyment of the world famous pause is captured for you in Paris by artist Jack Potter.” Vintage Coke ad 1957

 Come to Paris in the spring…and here too Coca Cola waits for you….so good in taste in such good taste that the invitation Have a Coke has become a gracious custom in more than 100 countries of the world today.

Hawaii Holidays

Vintage Coke ad Hawaii illustration Jack Potter

Hawaii was still a territory when this 1957 ad ran. Illustrated by Jack Potter

 When you come to Hawaii…here too you’ll find the enjoyment of Coca cola is a welcomed social custom just as it is in over 100 different countries.

Venice…Ciao Coca Cola

Vintage Coke ad 1957 "Venice" Illustration by Jack Potter

Vintage Coke ad 1957 “Venice” Illustration by Jack Potter

In Venice too…sign of good taste…the art of living cheerfully speaks many lamnguages. And almost every language today knows the invitation Have a Coke.

Romance in Rio

Coke Rio 57 SWScan04724

 In Romantic Rio, too…sign of good taste…the taste of Coca Cola is so distinctive and so popular that the serving and enjoyment of Coke is a cheerful symbol of good taste in living everywhere.

Through more than 100 countries…More than 58 million times each day …the invitation Have a Coke has a welcoming meaning and acceptance all its own.

Canada and Coke

Coke lake Louise SWScan04726

A famous Canadian resort inspires another interpretation from the talented brush of jack Potter

At Lake Louise, too…Sign of Good Taste…the instinct for pleasant living goes wherever pleasant people go…and take the custom of enjoying Coca Cola with it. So good in taste in such good taste …in more than 100 countries today, the invitation Have a Coke is the recognized signal for one of life’s unique pleasures

Better in Belgium

coke brussells worlds fair 58 SWScan03373 - Copy

1958 vintage Coke ad Brussels World Fair

 Visit the Brussell’s Worlds Fair where you’ll find a ready welcome at coca cola pavilion

Why have people in more than 100 countries made coke cola the best loved sparkling drink on earth?

If Coca Colas mission was to offer Coke to “whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you may be, when you think of refreshment think of an ice cold Coca Cola”, then “mission accomplished.”

Postscript: How Blue Jeans Could Spread World Peace

1970 Teen Traveler Wrangler jeans

Vintage Wrangler Jean ad 1970. Contest to go to Europe as a Young Ambassador to spread peace and harmony

Note:Coke wasn’t the only company to use an utilize a multicultural  approach in 1971. A year earlier all American Wrangler Jeans offered a trip to teens to be “Wrangler Young Ambassadors”. Any boy or girl between the ages of 16 and 22 could enter their contest to win a prize “traveling throughout Europe meeting people exchanging views,” in the hopes of spreading peace and harmony.


Copyright (©) 2015 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved

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  1. Thanks for another amazing post — collecting all those Coke ads must have been quite a project. My husband served in Vietnam, and still resents the fact that — partly because it was LBJ’s favorite non-alcoholic drink — Coca Cola’s Fresca was available in abundance. It was not popular, but it was what was left — often warm — after all the other Coca-Cola products had been consumed. Coke, cigarettes, and chewing gum: good for morale. And expanding markets.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thats an interesting story about the Fresca. Those who served in Vietnam couldn’t catch a break!Of course there were no Coke ads run featuring soldiers in Vietnam, but there were a few from Korea but shown stateside.


  2. Andrew Beierle

    I WAS one of the Wrangler Young Ambassadors who toured Europe courtesy of Wrangler Jeans in 1970. Fifty young Americans (and eight Canadians) spent three weeks in Europe, traveling from Amsterdam south to Rome, then to Paris and London. Stops included Geneva and Lucerne, Switzerland; Bonn and Heidelberg, Germany; Florence, Pisa, Venice, and Milan, Italy; Innsbruck, Austria; and lunch one day in Liechtenstein. Our trip began in New York with a tour of the United Nations and a meeting with then-NYC mayor John Lindsay. Until very recently I was still in touch with one of my traveling companions, some 46 years later. It was my first trip to Europe; indeed my flight from Philadelphia to NYC to meet the group was my first plane ride. I am not sure how much “ambassadorizing” got done, but we had a great time. I was 19 at the time and turn 65 this year!!!!


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