×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Inside Diet Coke’s Return to Super Bowl Advertising

The Coca-Cola Company on Sunday night is placing a lot of weight on Hayley Magnus’ shoulders.

The Australian TV and film actress was supposed to shoot a six-second video that Coke executives planned to use for social media support in a big campaign for Diet Coke. She was supposed to do something funny with her shoulders in front of a giant yellow wall on a set in east Los Angeles. Instead, Magnus ad-libbed her way into a Super Bowl commercial.

“She was so funny from head to toe doing this dance,” recalled Paul Feig, the creator and director behind “Bridesmaids” and “Freaks and Geeks,” among other works, who directed a new group of Diet Coke ads. And she started to narrate her action, which wasn’t necessarily in the script, he said. “She was getting sillier and more charming. She’s ad libbing. I go, ‘I can’t stop!’ We were just cracking up, and I said, ‘I think this just might be the Super Bowl spot.’”

The 30-second commercial – the first time Diet Coke has appeared in the glitzy TV event in 21 years – was slated to air at 7:30 p.m. during NBC’s broadcast of the game.

Coca-Cola, like so many big advertisers, typically leaves little to chance. Some of its executives visited New York City last week to hold meetings with small groups of reporters to explain in great detail a separate Super Bowl effort behind the company’s flagship drink, Coca-Cola.  But as a walk-through of the process behind the Diet Coke commercial shows, sometimes a company must let things proceed unfettered.

“We chose Paul as our director because he has this wonderful ability to pull improvised and comedic performances out of actors. You can see that in all his work, and I can tell you only one of the shoots ended up as scripted,” said Danielle Henry, group director of integrated content for Coca-Cola North America. “There was a tremendous level of improvisation, and I think that those hit the groove.”

The company has big plans for Diet Coke. A rising generation of consumers is eager to drink more healthily (and in some cases, avoid artificial sweeteners) and test new flavors. With that in mind, the company has expanded Diet Coke’s palette. Yes, the original continues to be sold, but consumers can also try Ginger Lime, Feisty Cherry, Zesty Blood Orange and Twisted Mango (in the Super Bowl ad, Mangus tells viewers what mango makes her want to do). The drink is served up in taller, sleeker cans.

Coca-Cola spent two years considering the revamp, talking to more than 10,000 people about flavor ideas and packaging.

The changes come as diet sodas have seen sales fall.  In 2016, sales of Diet Coke dipped 1.9%, according to Beverage Digest, while sales of Diet Pepsi were off 7.2%.

Coca-Cola wants to reverse the trend. Once portrayed in commercials as “hyper glossy” and “feminine,” says Henry, the company executive, Diet Coke in its new campaign is aimed at younger consumers of all kinds. The Super Bowl gives the soda giant opportunity to put the new concept in front of millions of people from all walks of life. Coke wants to keep Diet Coke loyalists, she said, but “we are looking to expand our reach.”

If Magnus is aware of all the work and research behind the Diet Coke effort, she certainly doesn’t show it. Feig says no one on set felt any pressure. “There are some Super Bowl commercials you just know are going to be these giant projects. It’s ‘This is the Super Bowl. We’re going to come in blasting.’” he said. “All that weird pressure was off.”

Will viewers see more of Magnus after the Super Bowl? Coca-Cola’s Henry believes so. “We think she’s going to go pretty far,” she said. That’s certainly not a shoulder shrug.

More TV

  • Caroll Spinney, with "Oscar the Grouch,"

    Caroll Spinney, Puppeteer Behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Dies at 85

    Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for 49 years at “Sesame Street,” died in Connecticut after living with dystonia. He was 85. Sesame Workshop announced his death on their site, calling him an “artistic genius” whose “legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending.” [...]

  • Stephen Colbert Julia Louis-Dreyfus

    Julia Louis-Dreyfus Talks 'Seinfeld,' 'Sexist' Environment at 'SNL' in Q&A With Stephen Colbert

    Stephen Colbert and Julia Louis-Dreyfus swapped stories about “Saturday Night Live,” Northwestern University, “Seinfeld” and the possibility of running for office during a Q&A held Saturday as part of Montclair Film Festival’s annual “Evening with Stephen Colbert” fundraiser. Colbert, a Montclair resident, has long been a booster of the festival, which is going into its [...]

  • SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Jennifer Lopez"

    'Saturday Night Live' Offers Prayers for Trump (Watch)

    “Saturday Night Live” cast member Kate McKinnon resumed her role as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in the Dec. 7 episode to offer a few prayers for Donald Trump. During the “Weekend Update” segment, co-anchor and “SNL” co-head writer Colin Jost first commented on Pelosi being asked if she hated President Trump during her [...]

  • Spongebob Squarepants Mr Kiasu

    Singapore Comiccon: Spongebob Squarepants Collides With Local Character Mr Kiasu

    Enormously popular Nickelodeon character, SpongeBob SquarePants is 20 this year. To commemorate the anniversary Nickelodeon commissioned Singaporean artist Johnny Lau, creator of iconic local animated character Mr Kiasu, to draw a coffee table book converging the wildly diverse worlds of the two. Lau released the book “Mr Kiasu Meets SpongeBob SquarePants” at the Singapore ComicCon [...]

  • America's Got Talent Simon Cowell

    Simon Cowell Lawyers Up From Abroad as 'America's Got Talent' Investigation Begins (EXCLUSIVE)

    “America’s Got Talent” executive producer Simon Cowell has set his legal representation for an investigation into the NBC competition series, which was announced by the network this week after a lengthy meeting with ousted judge Gabrielle Union. Cowell has hired Larry Stein, a longtime litigator in Hollywood and media spaces, multiple individuals familiar with the [...]

  • Ryan Reynolds' Aviation Gin Hijacks 'Peloton

    Ryan Reynolds Hijacks 'Peloton Wife,' Wrings New Buzz From Old Ad Trick

    The “Peloton Wife” is on the verge of striking up a new relationship outside her marriage The actress who plays the controversial Madison Avenue figure in a commercial for the luxury physical-fitness company is back in a new ad campaign – for another marketer that has little to do with promoting a healthy lifestyle. Aviation [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content