Stories

The ad that changed a marketing exec's entire career

(Photo Credit:  Jay Maisel) via Coca-Cola website.

One of the early interracial ads in America, a 1969 image featured black and white young boys enjoying Coca-Colas on a bench, was the ad that forever changed the career of Jonathan Mildenhall.

Why it matters: Mildenhall — Co-Founder and CEO of TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, former Airbnb CMO, and former Coca-Cola Company SVP Integrated Marketing Communication and Design Excellence — says that ad has inspired every ad he's made in his career since leaving Coca-Cola, because of the nuances in the one simple image. "The size of the idea is much ore important than the size of the budget," Mildenhall said at Nielsen's annual Consumer 360 Conference in Washington DC.

Quote"It shows the knees of the boys touching, which was groundbreaking at the time."
— Mildenhall

The ad was shot following the Detroit race riots and tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the late-1960s, according to Coca-Cola.

Mildenhall demonstrated his "Superbrand Formula" for making a killer ad, which was inspired by the lessons of purpose he learned from Coca-Cola's groundbreaking ad.

The ad should:

  1. Lead by purpose-driven leaders
  2. Have an instantly recognizable value proposition
  3. Have an iconic brand marque and visual identity
  4. Have a universal ideology that transcends the business

Mildenhall also explained how racial tensions in American have affected his marketing career. He cited AirBNB's Super Bowl "values ad" (the cheapest ad produced for the Super Bowl ever, he says) that aired in response to complaints of racial bias by AirBNB hosts in 2017. "Consumers loved it," he said.