Coca-Cola admits 30% of its ads are not as effective as it wants

The fizzy drinks giant hopes neuroscience can help as it looks to better understand what resonates online and how to optimise TV content for digital.

Coca-Cola cmo

Coca-Cola is looking to improve the effectiveness of its digital advertising after admitting consumers are growing ever more impatient and it is “missing a trick” when it comes to ad optimisation.

Speaking at the Neuromarketing World Forum yesterday (30 March), Coca-Cola’s senior insights manager for Western Europe, Adam Palenicek, said the brand spends more than £300m every year on media in Western Europe alone, and tests in excess of 170 ads a year.

Through testing the soft drinks brand found that 30% of its total advertising does not reach its “action standards”. It wants to reduce this figure.

Palenicek claimed ad testing is often done “too late” in the creative process. With 83% of testing done on finished films, there’s no opportunity to develop the messaging or ideas further.

Where Coca-Cola needs to upskill pretty quickly, is how we adapt our TV content for the digital sphere.

Adam Palenicek, Coca-Cola

“We are missing a trick in terms of ad optimisation opportunities, especially in the digital world. It’s becoming vital for us and we need to be more impactful than ever,” he said.

To help it better understand what works, Coca-Cola partnered with Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience to analyse consumers’ non-conscious reactions to its ads, and measure whether its ads resonate and make an emotional connection.

During the testing process, it found that shorter clips of people sipping Coca-Cola resonated more strongly with consumers. Clear shots of characters’ faces also drove emotional engagement, while darker shots disrupted emotion and increased attention.

Coca-Cola’s latest ‘Pool boy’ advert was tested using neuroscience to ensure it is as optimised as possible. Coca-Cola says it has a “strong” opening, engaging story line, minimal dark shots and the Coca-Cola bottles are featured in an “optimum” way.

That said, Palenicek admitted to Marketing Week that Coca-Cola has more work to do when it comes to adjusting its TV content for digital, as the company is “not particularly doing that brilliantly at the moment”.

He concluded: “Where Coca-Cola needs to upskill pretty quickly, is how we adapt our TV content for the digital sphere. We do need to do more optimisation in the digital space. We haven’t done that much, and at the moment we test our digital adverts via a more self-reported way, but [neuroscience is] something we’ll definitely be looking at.”

Insight is one of the categories at Marketing Week’s Masters of Marketing awards, taking place in October. For more information on the awards including a full category list and how to enter, visit



There are 2 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Madison Redtfeldt 2 Apr 2017

    Coca-Cola recently identified that they are missing optimization opportunities within the digital world. This is correlated with their unsuccessful attempts to turn their advertisements for television into digital advertisements. Any user of social media below the age of 22 could have told you that trying to turn television ads into digital ads would have failed. The best of digital media provides an experience, and shows the target audience how products fit into these experiences, if they are successful. Rather than attempting to turn their television advertisements into digital media advertisements they should create custom digital media ads that illustrate an experience, with Coca-Cola. An example of how they could do this is to get a creative mind, effective film devices, and a social media brand ambassador in collaboration to illustrate the experience of Coca-Cola. The free concert put on by Coca-Cola, on Saturday evening in Downtown Phoenix for the Final Four would be the ideal location. Film the ambassador having the experience of a life time everyone dreams of having at a concert, from getting on stage to crowd surfing and dancing to the Chain Smokers. Embed within the film should appear small images of Coca-Cola, and provide a supplementary site where fans of the video and drinkers of coke can track events hosted by Coca-Cola to feel the experience. Consumers not only want a quality product, which has been accomplished, but now they want to be rewarded by brands for their loyalty. This brand loyalty can be directly correlated to their success. Brands that give back to communities in fun, creative ways will go further in the marketplace than those that don’t in my opinion. Coca-Cola should continue giving back, and create their digital advertisements based on these events.

  2. Alexa 4 Apr 2017

    I was honestly surprised to read that Coca-Cola is struggling with digital marketing strategies. When I think of some of the best advertisements, I think of the Coca-Cola brand because of their fun, experiential marketing ideas. Although, because of our generation’s short attention span, it makes it difficult for any ads on social media or other websites to draw our attention as they are usually just seen as a nuisance. Users definitely will not pay attention if there is not a unique attention grabber in the beginning of the ad. I think it is interesting that Coca-Cola is working with neuroscientists when deciding if an ad campaign will be effective or not. Their new “pool boy” ad is an entertaining ad that would be placed well before a video on YouTube or on Facebook because it does not just directly promote Coco-Cola, it has a fun story that goes with it. I would recommend, however, that Coca-Cola starts producing shorter advertisements that will keep users’ attention or fun sponsored Instagram posts for people to see while scrolling through. Finally, experiential marketing is a new, unique way of getting people drawn into advertisements because they are seeing people having fun and doing life-changing things that so happen to be sponsored by Coca-Cola. They would benefit by creating more ads like this for the digital world.

Leave a comment