The Man from Atlanta


When I was doing the research necessary for my WWII fiction, I followed many threads of history.  The most amazing was how a man from an Atlanta advertising agency went to Germany in l929 to fight an up-hill battle to change their beer-drinking desires to Coke.

At that time, Ray Rivington, an ad man, 6′ 6″, went to Essen, Germany, in the industrial region to set up shop.  He found a worker and together they filled the first bottles and peddled them to laborers.  In his Southern accent, he’d shout, “Drinken Coc-Cola, kostlich und erfrescht.”

He made up pamphlets, “Was ist Coca-Cola?” and gave them out at sporting events, put these out on tables at restaurants.   As fast as restaurant owners tossed them out, he had his men replace them.

Soon more and more retailers carried the product but stashed it under cases of beer.  With Ray’s hard work, and his vigorous targeting of industrial workers with the slogan to “Mach doch mal Pause” (come on take a break) apparently derived from its U.S. slogan “the Pause that Refreshes,” German sales rose from zero to 111,000 cases in four years.

During WWII, Coca-Cola never mentioned it’s U.S. roots and successfully established itself as a German brand in the mind of the drinking public.  When German prisoners of war debarked in new Jersey in early 1945, they saw a Coca-Cola sign.  When they were asked why they were so excited, they exclaimed,  “You got Coca-Cola here, too?”

Although Coke was an outright collaboration with the Nazis, so was Standard Oil who sold AV fuel to the German war effort, or other American companies who worked with the German company, F.G. Farber chemical.

Coke’s commercial success was tied to a public image created thru mass market ads  It convinced Americans after Dec. l941, both on the war and home fronts that drinking coke was somehow synonymous with fighting against the enemies of democracy.

And, those were the days before the Internet and Facebook.  It might have proved easier in 1929 for the giant from Atlanta to introduce Coca Cola.

(Photo courtesy of PhotoPin)