I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing


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"It wasn't a message from Coca-Cola that you should buy the world a Coke. It was that each of us, individually, should like to do just that, if we could. It was the real thing and it was a metaphor for peace."

—Bill Backer, one of the co-writers of the jingle and former creative director at McCann Erickson

It was on an idyllic hilltop in Italy, where the seeds of a cultural phenomenon were sown.

Young people from around the world were gathered, their voices harmonizing with a melody that would soon echo across the globe.

This was no ordinary choir rehearsal—it was the birth of a unique advertising jingle, one that would cement Coca-Cola's place in the annals of marketing history. This is the story of the iconic song “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”.


portrait of Bill Backer
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In the realm of advertising, originality is the currency, and at the time, Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway, Bill Backer, and Billy Davis were rich in it.

Four individuals, each a maestro in his own right, were about to converge in a symphony of inspiration that was as refreshing as the drink they were to promote.

Cook and Greenaway, British songwriters, had already tasted success penning hits for popular bands.

Backer, a seasoned adman from McCann Erickson, had a knack for marrying catchy tunes with compelling narratives.

Davis, a former record producer, was an expert at turning musical notes into emotional stories.

The team came together with a simple brief: to sell Coca-Cola.

Their canvas was a minute-long commercial, their tool, a jingle. The initial title, "Buy the World a Coke," encapsulated the intent.

The Genesis of a Global Anthem

What started as a simple melody, however, quickly took on a life of its own.

The quartet didn't just create a catchy tune, they infused it with an emotion that tapped into the zeitgeist of the era.

The jingle wasn't just about Coca-Cola—it was about unity, peace, and shared experiences.

It was this unexpected depth, this resonance that caught people's attention. This wasn't merely a tune you'd hum along with and forget—it was a song that lingered, that made you pause and think, and perhaps even dream of a world united over a can of Coke.

This was an advertising jingle destined for far greater things.


I'd like to teach the world to sing jingle
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Debuting on television screens in 1971, the commercial titled "Hilltop" quickly struck a chord with audiences worldwide.

The image of a multicultural assembly of youth, singing about unity over a can of Coke, was potent.

The jingle, transformed into a full-length song, began its life beyond the commercial.

British pop group The New Seekers lent their voices to this endeavor, and the newly minted "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" was launched as a single.

Climbing The Charts

The response was phenomenal.

The song soared to number one on the UK Singles Chart and held the seventh spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US.

From Australia to Canada, audiences couldn't get enough of the tune that had begun its life on a hilltop in Italy.


Scene from the Hilltop Commerical
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

In an era dominated by the discord of the Vietnam War, the song struck a peculiar chord.

The grim reality of conflict hung like a heavy shroud over the world, punctuated by various social movements that attempted to pierce the gloom. Into this fraught milieu, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" introduced an incongruously harmonious note.

The lyrics of the song, with their utopian appeal for peace, unity, and shared experiences, resonated profoundly.

These words, broadcast through television screens and radios, offered a stark counterpoint to the daily images of war and strife.

The tune was catchy, yes, and it had audiences humming along, but it was the message that etched itself into their hearts.

A Reflection of Global Unity

At its core, the song's message was a reflection of Coca-Cola's global ethos.

While other brands focused on product features or competition, Coca-Cola envisioned a grander narrative.

They were not merely selling a beverage—they were promoting an idea—a world united by shared experiences and a shared drink.

Coca-Cola's marketing vision, combined with the profound message of the song, created an unexpectedly powerful alchemy.

The brand's name became inextricably linked with images of a hopeful, diverse world joined together in song.

A Symphony of Shared Experiences

On a broader scale, the song represented the shared human experience.

It wasn't just about buying the world a Coke—it was about buying the world a moment of unity and peace, a moment of shared experience.

This sentiment transcended the commercial's intent of promoting a product, elevating it to a poignant commentary on the times.

"I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" became more than just a catchy jingle for a soda brand—it became an anthem of optimism and unity during a time of global tension and conflict, encapsulating the spirit of its era in a unique and unforgettable way.


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Nearly two decades after the original commercial aired, it found a new stage.

The 1990 Super Bowl, an event known as much for its high-profile commercials as its football, saw the return of the "Hilltop" advert.

A Melody that Transcends Time

As the familiar strains of "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" filled living rooms across the country, it became evident that the song had not lost its charm.

Time had not dulled the melody—if anything, it had enhanced the allure. The re-airing underscored not just the jingle's enduring appeal but also its extraordinary longevity.

In a world where advertising campaigns come and go with dizzying speed, the Coca-Cola commercial's ability to capture audiences' imagination so many years later was unprecedented.

The Universal Appeal of a Message

Why did the commercial hold up so well?

The answer lies in the song's message.

The appeal of a world united in harmony, sharing a simple pleasure like a Coke, was as potent in 1990 as it was in 1971. Amidst a rapidly changing world, the song’s call for unity and shared experiences was a welcome constant.

An Emblem of Cultural Continuity

The revival of the original 1971 commercial at the 1990 Super Bowl was more than a marketing decision—it was a cultural moment.

It showed that a simple message of unity, underlined by a catchy tune, could span decades, speak to different generations, and remain relevant.

The jingle had not merely survived the passage of time—it had thrived, reaffirming its position in the annals of advertising history.


Mad Men, I'd like to teach the world to sing
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"I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" extended its reach far beyond a catchy commercial tune.

It became a nostalgic artifact in the world of cinema.

For instance, in the critically acclaimed drama "Mad Men," the song appears in the series finale as part of a storyline involving a major character's epiphany that leads to creating the iconic Coca-Cola commercial.

The song's inclusion tied together thematic threads about commercialization, unity, and the human desire for connection.

A Universal Chorus on TV

On television, the song often became synonymous with an era of change, unity, and shared aspirations.

For example, it was featured in "The Americans," a period drama set during the Cold War.

Here, the jingle offered a stark contrast and a powerful commentary on the political divide of the time. Its use underscored the series' themes of identity, duality, and a longing for harmony amidst discord.

A Reverberation in Advertisements

Moreover, the jingle echoed in other commercials, both for Coca-Cola and other brands.

Coca-Cola itself reprised it several times over the years, reminding audiences of their long-standing commitment to unity and shared joy.

Other brands also utilized the tune as an homage or a parody, recognizing its universal appeal.

In 2005, Heinz released a commercial for their Baked Beans using a parody of the song titled "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony)."

The lighthearted ad capitalized on the song's ubiquity, highlighting the song's capacity to bridge decades and continue resonating with audiences.

Through these diverse uses in film, television, and advertising, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" has continued to reverberate throughout popular culture, securing its place in the collective cultural memory.


© History Oasis

Coca-Cola's ingenious creation was more than a successful marketing campaign—it demonstrated the power of music in advertising, setting a precedent for future jingles.

The song, born on a hilltop and echoing across the globe, became a symbol of unity and harmony, perfectly encapsulating the spirit of the brand.

As the world continues to sing its tune, the legacy of "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" is a testament to the power of music in bringing people together, one can of Coke at a time.