If you buy Coke Zero, you're not just a pathetic loser, you're a pathetic loser in denial
In other words, big corporations and their ad agencies want to help all the soul dead, 9-to-5 working, house-deposit-saving, boat-shoe wearing, Country Road addicted sheep of the world feel like the renegade, socially-aware pioneers of the counter-culture they so desperately aspire to be ... just so long as they don't have to delete the Celine Dion Greatest Hits collection from their iPods. These guys use green enviro bags (they're a bit dorky, but at least everyone's doing it now so that's OK), or donate some change to those whacky Greenpeace dudes (those poor whales!) and perhaps, if they're feeling really rebellious, go out and buy a Green Day album (man, those guys are so crazy with their green hair and rock guitars and controversy and stuff).
Ron Barnacle, chairman of one of Melbourne's largest advertising agencies, CHE, agrees the days of mass-marketing campaigns are over. Research conducted for CHE last year found that 87 per cent of young people surveyed said they wanted to be different - but not so different that they stood out and didn't belong.
But try asking the same 'neos' to stop buying Coke in response to gross human rights violations in Colombia or environmental and public health catastrophes in India. Or to pass on the latest Nikes because you'd rather have your shoes made by somebody who'd at least hit puberty, or wasn't being beaten up at work. Suddenly the 20-40 year old target market that try to read street press (but think it's a little too hardcore) and will only spike their hair if they get to use a $20 bottle of Garnier Fructis product is a little more coy. "We can't save the world." "One pair of Nikes won't matter." "I'm not some kind of crazy Commie or anything like that."
But they might buy into the Coke Zero campaign, because it provides a sanitized notion of rebellious cred that only a slick, multi-million dollar advertising blitz could produce. It's rebellion without the effort. Activism without a cause. Anti-establishmentarianism without the smelly hippies. Counter-culture without the culture.
Every time you don your $80 Che Guevera t-shirt and pick up a Coke Zero not only will everybody watching know that you're a sugar-fearing sissy who doesn't want to look like one, but that you're also a lifeless shill who not only knows you'll spend the rest of your life in Caroline Springs or Springfield Lakes, but that you're relying on a black bottle of Aspartame to convince the world, and yourself, otherwise.
Now that's sad.