Viewpoint: Read this column and win a case of Coca-Cola!

Well, the Winter Olympics have been over for months now.I've forgotten for four more years what a luge is, nobody's shouting anymore about the inequities of hockey shootouts, and I haven't heard a Tonya Harding joke for weeks.So, it's time to...

Well, the Winter Olympics have been over for months now.

I’ve forgotten for four more years what a luge is, nobody’s shouting anymore about the inequities of hockey shootouts, and I haven’t heard a Tonya Harding joke for weeks.

So, it’s time to sit back, relax and analyze who won.

It wasn’t even close. The polar bears won.

Every time they appeared, night after night, in households of all demographics across North America, zappers went suddenly dead.

People stopped, watched and smiled as these computerized descendants of Mickey Mouse and Porky Pig ski-jumped, bobsledded and swigged Coke.

Even those incredible snobs at The Globe and Mail kept writing about them, acknowledging their extraordinary attraction despite the fact they were, after all – hold the nose and raise the eyebrows – advertising.

Offstage voices: Yes. Yes, John, you’re right. The Coca-Cola polar bears did attract remarkable attention. And, as we all know, the future of advertising is clouded and dangerous. So, this must have relevance. Tell us, tell us, what does it mean?

I haven’t got the faintest idea.

It’s not from a lack of thinking about it. The subject somehow fascinates me. And, I’ve raised the question with several people I respect, and I’ve got different answers. They seem to funnel down to these three:

1. The polar bears are everything.

They are what tomorrow’s advertising must be. They capture the attention, they provide a warm and positive feeling about the brand, and they create added impact through word-of-mouth.

In an age of tremendous communications clutter and parity products, the polar bears’ ability to grab mind space is the only answer.

2. The polar bears are nothing.

They are a fluke. They contain no idea, no product superiority feature, and no thread that provides an opportunity for long-term use. In an age of discerning consumers and deteriorating brand loyalty, they are charming, but a wank.

3. The polar bears aren’t everything, but they aren’t nothing, either.

They represent a new way to think. They combine traditional values – warmth and cuddliness and a little slapstick – with the most modern, state-of-the-art executional technology.

If we are to communicate properly in the third millennium, this is the approach we need: learning from the past and adapting to the future.

Unfortunately, I find myself buying into all three arguments, and then bailing out on all three.

The right side of my brain wants to embrace the first one. My left side says, bullfeathers, the second one’s right.

And, I desperately want to compromise on the third one, but if you follow that as a formula, you risk getting Max Headroom. He revolutionized the communications world for, maybe, five minutes.

I’m baffled. I don’t know the answer. (One of the many nice things about being an independent is you get to admit that.)

Can you help?


I want to know, and so does the management of this fine publication.

So, we’re inviting your views, and to stimulate them, we’re offering a prize for the best one.

Tell us, in 25 words or less, or more, ‘What do the polar bears mean to the future of advertising?’

Write it down while you’re thinking about it, and fax it to (416) 408-0870.

The five best entries will be published in Strategy, and, best of all, will win, yes, a case of Coke.

Please enter – not for the prize, but because, somehow, it’s important.

Those polar bears are trying to tell us something, and it’s not logical, and we’re not speaking their language.