In the early 1970s, a commercial jingle became a hot commodity on radio: the song I’d like to teach the world to sing (in perfect harmony).
In 1970, the team from McCann Erickson, the advertising agency who created commercials for Coca-Cola, came up with the phrase of “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”.
It was reworked into a song, and released to radio despite it being a commercial, in 1971. Many stations refused to air the song, yet the ad agency convinced Coca-Cola to create a television commercial.
The tv commercial featuring the song showed a group of people of different ethnicities singing the song was filmed near Rome, Italy. Called “Hilltop” by the creators, the commercial also showed the different singers holding Coke bottles labelled in different languages found around the world.
The commercial was a major hit, so much so that The Hillside Singers and The New Seekers both recorded the song, using amended lyrics with three verses and released as radio singles.
The Hillside Singers version was released first, and hit #13 on the Billboard Hot 100, while The New Seekers released their version, hitting #1 in the US and #2 in the UK.
Coca Cola waived all royalties to the song, and over $80,000 was donated to UNICEF.
A consequent version of the song was done for the holiday season with the singers each holding a white candle, so when the last image appears on screen, the group is in the shape of a Christmas tree.
But for me and so many others who heard these versions – it was a seemless move from radio jingle to pop culture pop fave.