The Bad Trip World Of Afri-Cola And Charles Wilp


We all know what to expect from cola ads – beautiful people, happy music and the sort of love, peace, harmony and utter joy that only a sugary drink can bring. But while Coca Cola was teaching the world to sing, Germany’s Afri-Cola went wildly off message in 1968 – the year of revolution – and commissioned designer / photographer Charles Wilp to make an ad that was to standard cola ads what Charles Manson was to the hippy era.

To the backdrop of a distorted, droning slice of avant garde experimentalism that sounds like a drunk orchestra tuning up, Afri-Cola – the ‘sexy-mini-super-flower-pop-op-cola’ – is presented with a series of visual non-sequiturs that include a naked man, a soldier and a dove, references to ‘girl power’, brides with nipple pasties, pouting nuns, hot pants and dolls. It’s like every bad trip you’ve ever seen on movies about hallucinogenics, cranked up and let loose.

And here’s an alternative version.

There’s also the accompanying print campaign, using imagery from the commercials.

And amazingly, the soundtrack to the commercials was released on vinyl. I very much want to own this.

If advertising is about creating an impact, then Wilp did a good job. Sales increased, the staid were outraged and an old brand was brought crashingly up to date. I doubt that anyone would have the balls to mount such a challenging campaign these days.

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