If you didn’t get a chance to see the Coca-Cola ad from last night’s SuperBowl, you can watch it below. That ad resonates with so many, largely because we live in such a broken world. People are grasping for answers to the tragic problems of hate and bullying, so Coke spends millions of dollars in advertising to promote its answer…happiness…and coke (of course). Happiness has always been a central advertising strategy of the Coke brand, which is refreshing in our culture’s media.
Despite that, even Coke’s promotion of happiness offers a sadly erroneous answer to the pervasive problem it attempts to address. In the end, a call to happiness offers nothing but false hope. Nothing changes. We cannot and will not solve the problem of hate through even the most well written and produced media campaign. As for this coke ad, it ultimately misses the mark both in its diagnosis and its answer.
First, the problem cannot be found deep within the servers and hard-wiring of the internet. Solving the message in the output will do nothing to change the hearts on the other end. This is why we need the gospel and not an ad campaign. We may gain a temporary feeling of desire to change and to see our world change from a 1-minute SuperBowl ad, but that feeling quickly fades and we default back to the sinfulness that infects our hearts. We are ultimately me-minded people and other people exist as our greatest obstacle to me-supremacy. That is why hatred and bullying exist. We don’t need the happy-infused fizzing bubbles of Coke hijacking hateful messages before they arrive on the screens of victims of hate, we need the gospel to permeate the hard-wiring of our fallen, sinful, self-centered hearts. The gospel does not serve to shame us into being nice to people; rather, it transforms us into people who begin to see ourselves and others the way God does.
Second, the sin of our hearts cannot simply be overtaken and replaced with happiness. In fact, as I have already pointed out, our desire for happiness (or, self-worship) lies at the root of our sinful hateful-ness. When we choose to run others down, the path on which we trample them has happiness as its end. This is the problem with throwing happiness out as a solution to a culture that has adopted personal happiness as its chief virtue. We are not attuned to automatically think of others when we think of happiness, but for some reason our culture keeps returning to this idea that happiness exists as some euphoric state of utopia that really is attainable if everyone would just get over themselves and try really hard to achieve it. The problem is our understanding of happiness is deeply flawed. Every attempt at happiness outside of a pursuit of God in Christ will result in nonfulfillment and the mistreatment of others. Instead, through the powerful transformation of the gospel, we need to be empowered with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, thankfulness, gentleness and self-control. We don’t get those by trying really hard; we begin to practice those as God changes us through his gospel of grace.
This is by no means a bashing of Coke or its SuperBowl ad. I would actually say thank you to them for producing refreshingly positive advertising amidst the backdrop of a lustful, shame-less, self-serving culture. This ad just serves to prove, though, that even in best intentions, any answer apart from the gospel falls short of offering true hope in bringing about the change we desire to see. It really is incredible how such ads, though, can be used to help us marvel once again at the glorious and powerful gospel of Jesus!