When things go better with Coke

Vintage Coke advertisement, in Dutch!

How do you like your Coca-Cola?!?

And so begin the liveliest tour introduction I’ve experienced, thanks to a very chipper young woman and no doubt a very savvy marketing team.

The call-and-response chant (“on the beach!” “in a tall glass of ice!”) kept the crowd fired up until we were released from the holding pen and let loose into the World of Coca-Cola, a totally commercial attraction in downtown Atlanta worth its hefty $15 admission fee.

Diane, fellow writer Ellen Perlman, and Wessel pose with friendly Polar Bear

First were the photo ops with impressively towering Coca-Cola Polar Bear, introduced in a commercial in 1993 and going strong. Unlike at some corporate attractions (like the CNN Studio Tour), here you get to take your own photo instead of being forced to use their photographer who then sells the prints for $20.

For nostalgia fans, Coke posters, ads, memorabilia and more from around the world are plastered across much available wall space, some more than a century old. Also lining the walls were crazily decorated oversized bottles from around the world.

Young visitor samples international sodas

At some point we were funneled into “Inside the Happiness Factory: A Documentary,” an animated mockumentary featuring the characters of the Happiness Factory, which I later learned was linked to an advertising campaign. Because I’d missed the campaign, I didn’t get the bizarre little film at all. More enjoyable in a completely cornball and promotional way was the short 3-D film with occasionally moving seats, squirting water, the whole shebang. I laughed my way through.

I love, love, loved the exhibit in the Pop Culture Gallery. Up through May 2011, it features works by a dozen artists that are part of the collection of Jean-Louis Foucqueteau of Switzerland, who has been collecting Coca-Cola memorabilia for more than 30 years and owns hundreds of rare and unusual artifacts. Very cool stuff.

Statue of Coca-Cola inventor John Pemberton with souvenir Coke bottle

After we passed the tiny yet operational bottling plant, we took the stairs to Mecca — the geographically organized tasting room. Here at the United Nations of soda drinking, visitors can sample more than 60 soda products that Coke owns worldwide. This went well beyond the obvious Coke and Diet Coke, though those are there, too. Try Lemon-Lime from Korea, Bitter Appertif from Italy, Ginger Ale from Mozambique. We sampled them all.

After all this fun — and a free bottle of Coca-Cola bottled on the premises to boot — we didn’t even mind being funneled through the gift shop. I’m not naive enough to think that Coke is all sweetness and light, because I don’t believe the company is, but they do know how to put on a darn good show.

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