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Diet Coke Brings Back Hunk Ad; Viewers Yawn

Diet Coke Brings Back Hunk Ad; Viewers Yawn

Courtesy BETC London

Nothing makes a girl thirsty like watching a sexy gardener take off his shirt on a steamy day, right? Well, at least that’s what Coca-Cola (KO) would have you believe.

Such is the premise of Diet Coke’s new ad by agency BETC London, tied to the brand’s 30th anniversary in Europe. The spot, which made its debut online on Jan. 28 and will air on TV starting in March, features five women sitting on a lawn. One tosses a can of Coke to the gardener, played by model Andrew Cooper. Upon opening, the soda can explodes its contents all over him, forcing him to take off his soaking t-shirt. Lustful gawking ensues. This is the fifth time Diet Coke has gone with a hunk-themed ad—the first was in 1994.

Viewers aren’t all impressed. “It’s kind of a ‘been there, done that’ concept,” says Christopher Cakebread, a master lecturer at Boston University who teaches advertising. The first time Diet Coke ran with this concept, “It was about the empowerment of women, and—back in the day—reverse sexism, which was very clever and well done. Now, so many years later, it seems limited in terms of what it’s trying to accomplish.”

These days, consumers have grown accustomed to seeing a little skin, beyond toplessness. (Consider Dior’s (CDI:FP)J’adore ad in which Charlize Theron strips down to nothing but her perfume, as well as Zappos’s naked NSFW ad from 2009.) A release by Coca-Cola called the original hunk ad “the most iconic advertising moment of the 90s.” Whether or not that’s true, the spot certainly left an impression on viewers. According to one YouTube (GOOG) commenter, nearly 20 years later: “Diet Coke Ads: Where being a woman still means being a knicker-wetting moron.”

Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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