Aretha Franklin Was a Pioneer of Pop Culture and an Advertising Icon for 50 Years

Remembering the Queen of Soul, who has died at 76

Editor: John Tejada
Headshot of David Griner

Aretha Franklin was one of those very few talents who elevated everything she touched, bringing her signature blend of passion, dignity and joy not only to decades of music but also to Hollywood and Madison Avenue.

Whether it was a duet with Ray Charles about Coca-Cola or her unforgettable cameo in The Blues Brothers, Franklin never once phoned it in for a paycheck. She owned every moment she was on camera or on the mic, yet also conveyed the confidence to have fun on screen without taking herself too seriously, rocking a hospital P.A. for Prodigy Internet in the ’90s and sweating it out as a road-tripping diva for Snickers in 2010.

One of her earliest ad efforts would actually change the way marketing was created forever.

In the 1960s, the golden age of ad jingles, Coca-Cola’s ad execs had a bold idea: work with the most talented musicians alive to create ads so good they felt like hit records. Aretha Franklin was an obvious choice, and her performances for Coke (including the aforementioned duet with Charles, performing a song written by Neil Diamond) set a new bar for the quality of what we’d today know as branded content.

Here’s a look back at some of Franklin’s other memorable appearances in advertising and pop culture:

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."
Publish date: August 16, 2018 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT