Adverts have promised many things down the years. They promised me that if I smothered myself in the latest Lynx Compost then I would be first in line to sleep with thousands of beautiful women, all beating down a path to my heavenly-smelling armpits. They promised me that Morrison’s was renowned for its “fresh produce” when in reality, my local store looks like the quality control manager at the abattoir had a fortnight off sick, an illness which all the livestock contracted too.
They even promised me, through cunning use of an animated family, that banks like Lloyds TSB are friendly, welcoming, pleasure domes of endless credit, despite every branch having a solitary game of Guess Who? with half the pieces missing as their lone concession to being a place for all generations and not just a glorified ball pit for Russian oligarchs to sink their blood money into.
But happiness? Not many adverts promise happiness, perhaps with the exception of the Asian lady in the free local newspaper who apparently charges “moderate fees”. Adverts traditionally promote lifestyles. Look at this woman drinking a Danone yoghurt. Not only is she gorgeous, but she’s in a shiny, crystalline, minimalist mansion, sitting at a breakfast bar and sipping her raspberry-flavoured pot of nonsense. You never see a middle-aged, harassed-looking mother of three, swigging down a probiotic drink in between cleaning the dishes and extracting various toys from her children’s various orifices, before turning to the camera and saying: “It’s the only thing that keeps me sane”. You can live a life free of stress – the only difference between you and the gorgeous mansion-dweller is the mini receptacle of bacteria she’s gulping down with a satisfied smirk.
Or recently, as mobiles have accelerated to become a catch-all device, where every task will conceivably be controlled by Motorola in twelve years’ time, the phone advertisement has begun to resemble a self-help DVD. Instead of showing you the features or the internet speed, you just see people walking along beaches, taking photographs of sunsets and hugging a suspiciously attractive loved one, while some Mumford-alikes bash away tunelessly in the background.
You see people at festivals having an amazing time, texting each other and larking about with mates. Everything is perfect. The sun is shining, the weather is sweet. If you’re Bob Marley, you’re a rainbow too. Yet they’re not even off their face on drugs to enjoy themselves, or if they are, they’re hiding it well for the cameras. Without doubt, this is concrete proof that the only thing that stands between you being popular and your current sad state of affairs is the shitty device in your pocket with a smashed screen that doesn’t let you type the letter ‘m’ or phone people with a Portsmouth area code because you dropped it down a bog.
Promising happiness is an altogether riskier business, perhaps more so than giving the Asian masseuse in your free-sheet a call and asking if she requires you to wear protection. Nevertheless, one company has decided they can promote happiness with their product. So what is this innovation that will bring joy to the masses and gather everyone together like a Woodstock for 2014? That’s right! Hot off the press, Coca Cola will be offering a 1.75 litre bottle which, according to the tagline of the advert, will bring “happiness in a new size”. I happen to get spam emails promising something similar but this is an internationally-renowned company we’re talking about here and there are billboards all over the place telling the world about this astonishing innovation.
Who, in the history of human communication, from cavemen warning other cavefolk about scary bears through etched sketches to Linda McCartney telling you that buying her vegetarian sausages are the only way to avoid purgatory, has ever expressed a desire for the seismic gap between a 2 litre and a 1.5 litre bottle of Coke to be addressed? Are there people, serving drinks at a house party, wondering aloud why they always get too much or too little mixer? You’d have to be on a heavy cocktail of something illicit to find exultation or sorrow in that extra 250ml.
And you know that some advertising hack, wearing a Don Draper suit and pointing at people shouting “get that on my desk by Tuesday!” will have been paid gazillions to come up with that line. Then again, I suppose if someone suggested “Obesity and diabetes in a new size” they might find themselves unemployed.
The industry are not happy though. It’s the greatest wholesale controversy since they refused to bring Wispa back until a few years ago. Previously, this new-fangled size was only available at small stores, the sort of place where you get bacon for odd prices like £1.73 with more fat than meat and an assortment of randomly selected vegetables in cellophane wrapping. Now, Coca Cola’s whole range is switching to the ‘contours’ of the 1.75 litre bottle, which are apparently more appealing to consumers than the straight-up-and-down 2 litre variety, in what the company describe as its “biggest shake up” in years. I’d respond by telling the story about the time I swung a bottle of Coke Zero in a carrier bag all the way home, turned the lid in my kitchen and felt like I’d just won a Grand Prix, such was the velocity of the biggest shake up I’ve ever experienced.
For the non-thick amongst you – this is the internet so that number is microscopic – this is simply a marketing exercise to make more money. Shave off your material costs and watch the profit margins leap upwards. You’ve seen it with chocolate. What happened to that sixth bite you used to get? Why is a Mars Duo nearly the same size as an old Mars bar? It’s because they don’t want you to feel like you’re getting less value for money, they want to give you an illusion of choice. Or an illusion of happiness.
Either way, it’s another method of shovelling more harmful sugar down the population’s traps and then having the brass neck to sponsor sporting events and such like. It’s almost as if their human rights record, questionable attitude to producers in third world countries and chemically-imbalanced glucose streams are not enough to inspire loathing.