Chevy Chase Inside...

Cola Turka is among the most recent additions to the Turkish soft drinks market, a lucrative niche that juggles a cool 7.5 billion dollars a year. Cola Turka is by no means a small enterprise, with Ülker, the Turkish food industry giant, flexing all its publicity muscle to plant it in the mind of the Turkish consumer.

I, personally, gauged the initial reaction to such a brand as mocking and incredulous. Then came the publicity stunt when Chevy Chase, still someone I like to remember as Fletch, became the central icon of a campaign to get people hooked on this black fizz. The first commercial aired around July of 2003 and dropped everyone's jaw. In the ad Chase is walking down Times Square in New York when he becomes confused by unamerican elements such as chanting soccer hooligans and whatnot. He then walks into a diner and is drawn into an unexpected conversation by a cowboy, something of a general symbol for all things American, I guess. Not so out there when one considers that that simian fella has put a huge ten gallon on the image of America.

The cowboy is drinking a can of Cola Turka and referring to things only a Turk would know about, such as Sergen's goal in the soccer match the night before, or asking Chase how the wife is doing, calling her "Yenge", a euphemistic term used when alluding to a woman who is off-limits to all but one. Chase is extremely confused by this, letting it be known by a fixed wide-eyed stare of astonishment throughout the ads. As he walks out of the diner the cowboy calls out, "say hi to coluk cocuk" (more or less "the kids"), which perplexes Chase a little more.

Other commercials followed. There was the woman calling out of her NY apartment window down to the convenience store clerk and swinging down a basket, something frequently done in Turkey, to pull up an order of Cola Turka and two "ekmek"s (bread). And the hotdog salesman in downtown New York who shattered Chase's appetite for a quick lunch, saying that from now on it was going to be "Nohut Pilav" (chickpeas and rice).

But the real showstopper came when the ad's story carried itself over to Chase's home:

He enters to find his wife in the kitchen preparing a "biber dolmasi" (peppers stuffed with minced meat) for "kayin valide and kayin peder" (mother and father in law) who are coming for dinner. Cut to the dinner table and Chase and his wife and the in-laws are enjoying their meal and, god knows why, singing take me out to the ball game. Upon taking a sip of Cola Turka they change their tune to a fervent interpretation of "Dag Basini Duman Almis", a very old marching number praising the natural beauty of Turkey. Chase looking somewhat exhausted concedes, "I've had a very strange day today", and taking a sip of the glass in front of him feels inclined to join in. Is life too fucking weird or what.

Surprisingly, Ülker's campaign seems to have worked and sales of Cola Turka are purportedly on the increase. So much so that Coca Cola has had to scale down its own prices for fear of losing its dominance over the Turkish market.

Let me tell you an interesting story.

Ulker, company that produces Cola Turka, for years has been known to be very close to the Islamic community in Turkey.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose own company is a large retailer of Ulker holdings, is now the Prime Minister of Turkey.

He is the founder of AKP political party, whose roots go back to the fanatical organizations in Turkey's history.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan comes from the fanatical Islamic background. He was the Mayor of Istanbul before.

After finishing his time as Mayor, he was sentenced to some years in prison for his speeches threatening Turkey's democratic system, such as bringing Islamic order to the country.

After he was out of prison he founded AKP party and the party won the elections.

That's when Ulker company commenced its economical leaps. New products, new campaigns. They dominated some of the food market.

When Cola Turka campaign was launched, the people who voted the AKP started to buy Cola Turka. So those sales figures are not specifically related to the advertising campaign featuring Chevy Chase. This is a sociological result of a conflict between the secular side and the fanatical Islamic side of Turkey.

Cola Turka is just a new way of dominating the political scene. Funny thing is, people who hate liberalism and democracy use the methods of liberalism and democracy to overcome.

And, of course, look at Mecca Cola! Isn't it the same effort?

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