catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 7 :: 2009.03.27 — 2009.04.10


“Josep’s Opus,” or “Coke’s mini-movie”

Story-based TV commercials are like mini-movies. They have characters, settings, problems and solutions, and even though they’re usually shorter than a minute, I tend to want popcorn just in time for them to end.

“Encounter,” a Coca-Cola spot by McCann Erickson of Madrid, is no different. It has characters: a 102-year-old man and a new-born; settings: Mallorca and Madrid, Spain; problems: the world is in crisis and this is no time to be born; and solutions: the problems will make you stronger…and Coke will make you happy.

Hey, I’m just telling you what they told me. They said Coke will make me happy. They’ve been associating Coke with happiness for years so they must know what they’re talking about.

But I don’t feel happy when this mini-movie is muted. Which means there’s a third character: music. Music, I think, is the main character here. I say that because watching this commercial muted does nothing for me; watching it with sound, however, does for me what the Edge does for Bono.

At 00:00:10, a simple, quiet, single-finger piano melody begins. A drum brush – nearly inaudible – comes too, setting a slow tempo in the background. At 00:00:13, the cello joins with long, gradually rising notes until 00:00:32 when the piano’s high notes enter a marching trot. They press on, keeping speed but feeling faster all the time. Josep is going somewhere and so is the music. At 00:00:44, just as the baby enters the world, the cello reaches higher and now sings in unison with a trumpet while the piano gains force with heavier chords combining high and medium octaves. As Josep approaches the delivery room, the cello and trumpet duo fluctuates tensely between two unresolved notes, taking you expectantly, anxiously to the crib. The meddlesome duo holds you there from 00:00:50 all the way to 00:01:03, when the last four-count measure stretches six full beats and the intermittent roll on a snare drum finally introduce you to the baby. The very next second, at 00:01:04, a high-reaching pitch of the violin and driving snare say, “Herald the child!”  Immediately on their heals at 00:01:05, the trumpet pierces the upper reaches of the scale, drowning out the milder cello and riding celestially on the endless piano melody and march, march, march of the snare. It pierces four complete measures – ten whole seconds of the commercial – sustaining the critical power of connection between the man and the child and holding your attention captive. They have met, and now, finally, the trumpet explodes festively at 00:01:15, dancing about in celebration. When you think no more can be added, the adrenaline-laced progress of music welcomes a human applause from Josep’s embracing party companions and at 00:01:27, a shout – Josep’s 102-year-old gusto – rings out.

And the Coke bottle floods the screen.

That’s it. The third character of the mini-movie is music. And its role exists only to tell me that Coke makes people happy.

I want a refund.

View “Encounter” here:

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