Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Coke Ad

I have been led to understand that Cola-cola is the real thing, and indeed that there ain't nothin' like it. How then, are we to take the superbowl commercial entitled "Avatar"?

You know the one. Dude is walking around the city and web-enabled people turn into their online personas. Elves, zombies, pokemen, and space adventurers go about their mundane business all around our protagonist. He finally takes a respite from his odyssey in a seat next to a big bad orc, who, it turns out is the cute girl in real life.

Is this meant to be a "book-by-its-cover" morality tale? After all, the frumpy lady is a 60's spy-movie femme fatale in the digital world. The nattily-dressed business man appears as a blue-skinned beastie. Surely our avatars, the faces which we choose for ourselves, speak much more about who we are than our offline bodies.

At about the half-way point, though, a few ironic vignettes appear in rapid succession. A pasty man in a white short-sleeved oxford shirt (the uniform of a fool in advertising) ignores a woman who struggles to get her stroller up the stairs, but turns into a superhero before our eyes. A spitting image of the Victor dog -- you remember, the one who hears his master's voice on the record-player -- bounces a sad blue ball against the leg of a boy who is apparently engaged in a particularly exciting hand-held video game. A child is dutifully pushed on a swing by a virtual supermom, who is far more interested in texting with her other hand.

So perhaps, then, the fine people at Coca-cola are saying something different. Perhaps our choices of avatar speak more about who we think we are than who we are in truth.

What, then, of our orc? She certainly seems upset when the protagonist reaches for her tasty bottle of Coke -- her green brow furrows and an angry sneer appears on her fanged mouth. Are we to assume that this young woman, who to all appearances seems nice enough in the real world, is in her mind a nasty and brutish agent of evil? Or has this gladsome prince appeared to kiss her back into the form of the princess?

Next time you meet someone, ask them what they use for their avatar. Share a Coke and see what that says about them. You should probably keep your observations to yourself, though -- at least until you exchange email addresses.


  1. I had trouble figuring out the message behind that commercial, too. Maybe it's as you say, despite living in an age where we have the ability to project a desired persona with near impunity, real life is not something to be ignored or discarded and is still where the real magic happens.

    Also, drink more Coke.

  2. I think Greg hit the nail on the head: drink more Coke.

    Maybe it also means "computers are cool."

    Anyway in my opinion an avatar is simply another form of self-expression. Of course, that doesn't mean that one actually is what one thinks one is. I might think I'm good enough to play in the NHL, and I might even pose myself as a goalie once in a while, but guess what: I ain't no NHL goalie.