Since it was filmed on a hilltop in Italy 46 years ago, it has been widely said to be “the world’s most famous ad,” ever.
The story behind the optimistic, infectious tune and its subsequent commercial starts out a little less harmoniously. The late writer Bill Backer was the creative director on the Coca-Cola account for McCann-Erickson when he found himself stranded overnight at an airport in Ireland, surrounded by frustrated travelers from different corners of the world. By the morning the mood had lightened considerably, with these same international passengers exchanging their stories—some even sharing a Coke as they got to know each other. That’s when the idea came to him. Backer penned the first lines of the lyrics to the song right there in the airport café.
It just felt like I heard a voice from somewhere saying, ‘I’d like to be able to do this for the whole world.
– Bill Backer
The “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” song premiered on the radio soon after. It was followed by the classic TV commercial featuring optimistic young people of all different races and cultures singing on a hilltop, their faces turned to the sky, wearing hopeful smiles and holding bottles of Coca-Cola. The rest is world-renowned ad history.