If you, like Fatz, thought the Vodacom meerkat was pushing the boundaries of tasteless and nauseating advertising, then the recently held ‘My Coke Fest’ in Johannesburg and Cape Town over the Easter weekend would have had you regurgitating your overly-priced hamburger and soft drink. Picture the scene. You arrive at the stadium entrance, your ticket in hand, and you walk through a giant red Coca-Cola archway. Not too bad – at this point, you’ve just got there and are excited to see your favourite band. You make your way over to the food tent, which is large and red and that oh-so-recognisable logo is emblazoned across the entire side of it. You start to get that thirsty sensation in the back of your throat, and a little voice with an American accent in your head tells you, “MMMM MMMM I sure fancies myself a big ol’ swig of cola! Yeehaw!” Luckily, there is more than one option to drink – apart from Coca-Cola, the vendors can sell you ANYTHING else you want …as long as it’s owned by Coca Cola. And if it’s a beer you are after, which of course is not owned by Coke, they send you to the reject tent in the furthermost corner, and make you queue in excess of two hours before you get your order.
So a Coke it is then. While you’re walking around, sipping on a can, you come across the ‘Style My Coke’ tent. If you are like me, you will still be pondering on the fantastic use of grammar in that phrase for weeks after, and marvel at the company’s ability to create its own language. A ‘Style My Coke’ (yes, apparently it is a noun) is basically a designer Coke. It seems the company couldn’t settle with their standard product being ‘hip’ or ‘funky’ enough (two words in the English language I would happily have removed – perhaps donated to Coke’s new repertoire) for the youth, and so have designed a bigger-sized, intricately-patterned bottle, which has the sudden effect of making your normal Coke can seem like you’ve just picked it up off the street after a car has run over it. The added incentive to buying one was that it gave you the chance to meet your favourite band. Oh yes, the bands. That was the reason you came to the festival in the first place. With all the advertising everywhere, it’s easy to forget that this is a ROCK CONCERT. Rock dammit! That rebellious music that your parents hate and that tattooed people with long hair listen to. There was NOTHING rebellious about Cokefest. It was a lesson in Commercialism. I won’t knock the bands – there were a couple on the line-up that I don’t rate too highly and others that I think are fantastic but I understand that it comes down to personal taste. But I just wonder how they felt playing on that stage, amongst all that branding. Between every band were constant Coca-Cola adverts, and little graphics which repeated the logo over and over and over again. The MCs kept repeating the word ‘Coke’, and this strange use of ‘My’ in front of every word (rather selfish if you ask me) kept creeping into their sentences. “MY Coke Fest.” “Style MY Coke.” “Buy MY Merchandise.”
YOUR Coke Fest, you say? Fine – you can keep it.
I will say one thing on a more positive note, if only to stop all the genuine music fans out there from jumping out a window after reading this. I believe there is hope. This is only the third serious rock festival of this kind that South Africa has ever hosted. We don’t have a fantastic track record of attracting big international acts, and seeing people like Chris Cornell singing songs like ‘Black Hole Sun’ in our very own Cape Town is still a rare and amazing thing for music fans. And you have to thank Coca-Cola for throwing their weight, but most importantly their money, behind such a venture in order to attract those big names. But a festival culture will develop, South Africa will, for the first time since the seventies, become a regular stop for touring bands. More and more diverse sponsors will begin to show interest, and perhaps one day, concert organisers will have enough money to turn around to Coca-Cola and say, “Take you uniquely-contoured Coke bottle and shove it up your ***!”
Now that’s Rock and Roll.