I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)
|"I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)"|
|Single by The Hillside Singers|
|from the album I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing|
|"I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing"|
|Single by The New Seekers|
|from the album We'd Like to Teach the World to Sing|
|Writer(s)||Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway, Bill Backer and Billy Davis|
|The New Seekers singles chronology|
"I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)" is a popular song that originated as the jingle "Buy the World a Coke" in the groundbreaking 1971 "Hilltop" television commercial for Coca-Cola. "Buy the World a Coke" was produced by Billy Davis and portrayed a positive message of hope and love, sung by a multicultural collection of teenagers on the top of a hill. "Buy the World a Coke" repeated "It's the real thing" as Coca-Cola's marketing theme at the time.
The popularity of the jingle led to it being re-recorded by The New Seekers and by The Hillside Singers as a full-length song, dropping references to Coca-Cola. The song became a hit record in the US and the UK.
The idea originally came to an advertising executive named Bill Backer, who was working for McCann-Erickson — the agency responsible for Coca-Cola. Backer, Roger Cook and Billy Davis were delayed at Shannon Airport in Ireland. After a forced layover with many hot tempers, they noticed their fellow travelers the next morning were talking and joking while drinking Coca-Cola. Backer wrote the line "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" on a napkin and shared it with British hit songwriters Cook and Roger Greenaway. The melody was derived from a jingle by Cook and Greenaway originally called "True Love and Apple Pie". The commercial ended with the statement:
"On a hilltop in Italy, we assembled young people from all over the world to bring you the message from Coca-Cola bottlers all over the world. It's the real thing. Coke."
A version of the song was rerecorded by Susan Shirley and released in 1971. Cook, Greenaway, Backer, and Billy Davis reworked the song and recorded it as a Coca-Cola radio commercial.
Versions as an ad
Multiple versions of the ad have been made.
- The song first aired on American radio on February 12, 1971, but failed. The TV commercial, titled "Hilltop", was directed by Roberto Malenotti. The ad cost $250,000, the most expensive commercial in history, at that time.
- Although many radio stations refused to play it, Backer persuaded McCann-Erickson to film a commercial using the song. The TV commercial, titled "Hilltop", was directed by Roberto Malenotti. The first attempt at shooting was ruined by rain and other location problems. The eventual total cost of the commercial was $250,000—an unheard of price in 1971 for an advertisement. The finished product, first aired in July 1971, featured a multicultural group of young people lip syncing the song on a hill in Manziana, outside Rome, Italy. The global unity of the singers is emphasized by showing that the bottles of Coke they are holding are labelled in a variety of languages. The song became so popular that it was recorded by The New Seekers and by The Hillside Singers as a full-length song and both versions became huge hits. The South African government asked for a version of the commercial without the Black actors. Coca Cola refused their request. The company later reduced its investment in that country with the (then) CEO saying "We have been reducing our investment in South Africa since 1976, and we have now decided to sell our remaining holdings in that country".
- In the mid-1970s, another version of the commercial was filmed for the holiday season. This reworking featured the same song but showed the group at night, with each person holding a lit white candle. In the final zoom-out crane shot, only the candle flames remain visible, forming a triangle reminiscent of a Christmas tree; this impression is cemented by a Coke bottle logo superimposed at the top of the "tree", and the words "Happy Holidays from your Coca-Cola bottler" below. This version was reused for many years during the holiday season.
- Yet another variation had a different ending, with Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters decorating a giant Christmas tree in front of the Sleeping Beauty Castle before the establishing crane shot captures an animated Tinker Bell lighting it up with her wand.
- In 1991, a follow-up to this commercial, called "Hilltop Reunion" and directed by Jeff Lovinger, aired during coverage of Super Bowl XXV. It featured the original singers (now adults) and their children, and culminated in a medley of this song and the then-current "Can't Beat the Real Thing" jingle.
- G. Love remade the song for the Coca-Cola Zero commercial "Everybody Chill", which aired in 2005.
- In 2006, the song was used again in a Coca-Cola commercial in the Netherlands, performed by Dutch singer Berget Lewi.
- In 2010, Coca-Cola once again used the song in a television commercial featuring the entire line of its sponsored NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers. The commercial included the drivers singing the song while driving in a race.
- In 2011, information on how many dollars it would take "to buy the world a Coke" was given in a commercial featuring the red silhouette of a Coke bottle and the melody of the song.
Significance and reception
In 2007, Campaign magazine called it "one of the best-loved and most influential ads in TV history". It served as a milestone—the first instance of the recording industry's involvement with advertising.
The commercial has continued receiving accolades in more recent times. In 2000, Channel 4 and The Sunday Times ranked the song 16th in the 100 Greatest TV Ads, whilst ITV ranked the advertisement 10th in their list of the greatest advertisements of all time by in 2005.
The Hillside Singers
After the TV commercial aired, radio stations began to get calls from people who liked it. Billy Davis' friends in radio suggested he record the song, but not as an advertising jingle. It became so popular that the song was rewritten without brand name references and expanded to three verses. Davis recruited a group of studio singers to take it on because The New Seekers did not have time to record it. The studio group named themselves The Hillside Singers to identify with the ad, and within two weeks the song was on the national charts. The Hillside Singers' version reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #5 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart. Billboard ranked this version as the No. 97 song for 1972.
The New Seekers
The New Seekers later found time to record the song and sold 96,000 copies of their record in one day, eventually selling 12 million total. The recording shot lead singer Eve Graham and the other members of The New Seekers to super-stardom. "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)" climbed to UK #1 and US #7 in 1971 and 1972. The song has sold over a million copies in the UK. The Coca-Cola Company waived royalties to the song and instead donated $80,000 in payments to UNICEF. Billboard ranked this version as the No. 93 song for 1972.
Covers and inspiration for other music
- The British rock band Oasis was sued after their recording "Shakermaker" borrowed its melody and some lyrics directly; they were forced to change their composition.
- Oasis tribute band No Way Sis released a cover of "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing", entering the British charts at No. 27 in 1996. 
- A version of the song was included in a Kidsongs video.
- The VeggieTales covered the song on their album Bob and Larry Sing the 70's.
- Gordon Webster recorded a live cover of the song on his 2013 album Live at Boston Swing Central. 
In popular culture
The commercial was used as the final scene in the Mad Men series finale, "Person to Person" (airdate May 17, 2015), which was set in November 1970, at an oceanside spiritual retreat in California. Just before the commercial segment played, the series protagonist, Don Draper, was shown meditating, finally at peace with a smile on his face, on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and facing the rising sun. Some critics suggest that the episode implies, within the show's fictional universe, the character of Don Draper was responsible for the ad's concept. Soon confirmation came from the actor playing Draper, Jon Hamm. He said that, in his view, the broadcast of the famous commercial was used to tell the audience that Draper had returned to McCann Erickson in New York City with his creative ability renewed, and he was responsible for producing the "Hilltop" ad campaign inspired by his experience in the California retreat.
- "First Time" (Robin Beck song), which also came to prominence via a Coca-Cola TV commercial
- The New Seekers: Buy The World a Coke (single release) at Discogs
- "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" - The Hilltop Story, The Coca-Cola Company (2006). Retrieved on May 4, 2009.
- "Coca Cola "Hilltop"". Coloribus.
- Marlow Stern (18 May 2015). "Mad Men’s Series Finale: Don Draper’s Moment of Zen and the Betrayal of Peggy". The Daily Beast.
- The "Hilltop" Ad: The Story of a Commercial, Library of Congress. Retrieved on May 4, 2009.
- Dale, Arden (December 22, 1989). "'Hilltop Reunion' has McCann and Coke Humming". Backstage.
- Williams, Damon C. (2005-06-16). "G. Love, Coke Zero take '71's 'Hilltop' to another level". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
- "Coke Nascar Harmony Ad". YouTube.
- Hamilton, James & Tylee, John (May 18, 2007). "Ten ads that changed advertising". Campaign. p. 20.
- "All about ... Advertiser-funded music". Campaign. February 8, 2008. p. 15.
- Gieryn, Thomas F. (Spring 1987). "Science and Coca-Cola". Science & Technology Studies 5 (1). pp. 12–31.
- Holbrook, Morris (July 1987). "Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, What's Unfair in the Reflections on Advertising?". The Journal of Marketing 51 (3). pp. 95–103.
- "100 Greatest TV Ads". UK TV Adverts. 2000.
- "Greatest advertisements of all time". thinkbox.TV. 2005.
- Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1972
- Culley, Maureen (March 22, 2008). "I've Finished Teaching the World to Sing". Daily Mail (London). p. 18.
- Ami Sedghi (4 November 2012). "UK's million-selling singles: the full list". Guardian. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- Mundy, Chris (May 2, 1996). "Ruling Asses: Oasis". Rolling Stone. pp. 32–35, 68.
- Teti, John Teti. "Mad Men: 'Person To Person'". AV Club. "The implication is that Don went back to the only home that would have him—McCann, where Peggy extended a perpetual welcome—and applied his newfound insights to launch an iconic Coke campaign"
- Sepinwall, Alan (May 18, 2015). "Series finale review: 'Mad Men' - 'Person to Person': I'd like to buy the world a Coke?". Hitfix. "If Don really traversed this great land of ours, threw away all the sigils of Don Draper-hood, learned of Betty's impending death and the shaky future of their three children, and finally heard someone articulate his own deepest feelings of unlovability, and he came out the other side having only acquired the inspiration needed to buy his way back into McCann(**) and write that Coke ad — and cutting straight from the look of pure bliss on Don's face to the ad, without giving us hints of anything else he might do upon returning to New York, suggests that this is the only thing that ultimately matters to him — then that is a very cynical and dark take on a man I wanted better from." "(**) During Peggy and Stan's phone call (about which I will have more to say in a bit), he tells her that Don will come back and be just fine like he always has in the past, and she later observes that Stan is always right."
- Itzkoff, Dave. "Jon Hamm Thinks There’s a Correct Interpretation of the End of Mad Men: "Don Draper had a moment of meditative clarity that led to the iconic Coca-Cola jingle.". TIME.
- "Jon Hamm Talks About the ‘Mad Men’ Series Finale". The New York Times. May 18, 2015. "My [Hamm's] take is that, the next day, he wakes up in this beautiful place, and has this serene moment of understanding, and realizes who he is. And who he is, is an advertising man. And so, this thing [the Hilltop Coke ad] comes to him."
- Coca-Cola Company, The Making of 'I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke'
- Lyrics: New Seekers, I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing
- Brian Wolly (May 18, 2015). "American History Museum Scholar on the History of the "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" Advertisement". Smithsonian Magazine.
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