Opinion: Beale on ... Coca-Cola

Sharlene Hector has a face you want to have a cup of tea with. Oh, she'd be a wonderful listener, understanding, you know. It's in her eyes, her smile, her pink jumper and cheap dangly earrings. And she can sing.

She can really sing. There's definitely a good soul in there, for her to have a voice and a warmth like that. Really she's quite mesmerising, in a comfortably down-to-earth sort of way, natural.

Surprise is, she's the star of a new ad campaign for Coca-Cola Classic.

Often when ads try to do "real" people they're either bad actors pretending to be real people, and not very well. Or real people who are not entirely comfortable with being in millions of living rooms.

Hector gets it perfect. Whoever was responsible for casting her deserves an enormous pay rise because she is marvellous. And, consequently, the ad is pretty damn good too.

It's very simple. Hector (a 25-year-old British singer not unused to the spotlight, having performed with the likes of the Brand New Heavies) strolls down the street spreading warm feelings by handing out bottles of Coke with a big smile. All the while she's singing I Wish (originally by Nina Simone) and it's lovely.

Now I remember scuffing my Clarks prancing round trilling I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing in our street with a gang of kids. This new work, from Mother, will undoubtedly draw comparisons with that iconic 70s Coke ad. The new work doesn't have the same pretensions or scale as the 70s ad; it's simpler, warmer, more natural. But it definitely has the same feel-good factor, and makes you smile when you see it.

Which is strange because normally the words Coca-Cola get my cynical muscle throbbing. This is, after all, a lead-footed global corporate monolith.

(A for instance: an attempt by Campaign to extract a picture of Coca-Cola's COO, Steven J Heyer, went unanswered by Coke's UK press office for three weeks. Finally we were told we had to put the request in writing, Coca-Cola GB couldn't release anything without approval from US headquarters, and that would take 14 working days. Now does this sound like a company that can even spell "real" without a committee meeting?)

So it would be satisfying to slag a Coke ad as yet another attempt by an out-of-touch imperious US conglomerate trying to persuade us that they love us in order to crank up profits. Which this is, of course. But damn it, this is a really nice campaign.

It doesn't try too hard, and it doesn't have to here. The UK is the tenth-largest cola market and thirsty Brits each guzzled an average of 45 litres of the stuff last year, though alternative soft drinks are growing at a faster rate. Even so, Coca-Cola is the best-selling FMCG brand in the UK and, according to Superbrands, the Coke brand touches consumers on average 50 times a day.

So this latest ad, from Mother, is just another gentle nudge. But it's one that brings Coke even closer to home, and makes you forget, for a moment, that this brown fizzy drink happens to be the most recognised trademark in the world, worth $73 billion, thereabouts.

Interestingly, there is a new Pepsi campaign coming out. It stars Beyonce, Pink and Britney in skimpy warrior armour; Enrique plays a Roman Emperor.

Seriously. You don't have to buy into the anti-American backlash to wince at the contrast between this brash line-up of primped pop stars with the home-grown Hector. Let's just say one brand looks sassy, down-to-earth, touchable, local and, yes, real. And one doesn't.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Well, it's not clever, arty or full of high-tech

trickery, so probably not. Bet the song makes a mint, though.

File under ... C for cunning casting.

What would the chairman's wife say? "We must get her to sing at our

wedding anniversary soiree. She can hand out nice little bottles of

Bolly instead."