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Coca Cola Letters

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The letters that follow represent an exchange that occurred in 1970 between Mr. R.W. Seaver and Mr. Ira C. Herbert. (You can note their titles in their addresses.) For one of the AP Lang prompts years ago, students were asked to analyze and compare the rhetoric and style used by both gentlemen. Your comments may be about a particular component of one letter or a component of the letter as it compares to the other letter.

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March 25, 1970

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Mr. R. W. Seaver

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Executive Vice President

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Grove Press, Inc.

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214 Mercer Street

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New York, NY 10012

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Dear Mr. Seaver:

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Several people have called to our attention your advertisement for Diary of a Harlem Schoolteacher by Jim Haskins, which appeared in the New York Times March 3, 1970. The theme of the ad is “This book is like a weapon…it’s the real thing.”

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Since our company has made use of “It’s the Real Thing” to advertise Coca-Cola long prior to the publication of the book, we are writing to ask you to stop using this theme or slogan in connection with the book.

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Apr 27
Logan Kaiser (Apr 27 2020 12:08PM) : I understand why Coca Cola would want to tell the guy to stop, but to me he definitely isn’t trying to steal the slogan. If they write to him for using “it’s the real thing” in the book then they should write to everybody who has ever used the slogan
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May 28
Isaiah Alwin (May 28 2020 11:49AM) : It’s such a common phrase that it would be impossible to reach every single person. I’m guessing they only reached out to him because he was going to make money
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May 28
Lily Navarro (May 28 2020 10:02PM) : In the letter he seems very confident, almost in a stuck up way. He explains everything for why the slogan must be changed and even brings up examples from in the past to prove or further is offer.
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We believe you will agree that it is undesirable for our companies to make simultaneous use of “the real thing” in connection with our respective products. There will always be likelihood of confusion as to the source of sponsorship of the goods, and the use by such prominent companies would dilute the distinctiveness of the trade slogan and diminish its effectiveness and value as an advertising and merchandising tool.

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Jun 6
Lauren Eck (Jun 06 2020 10:44AM) : He comes off as too confident and cocky that he doesn't even need to ask for the slogan and that it is their slogan.
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Apr 27
Zoe Rohling (Apr 27 2020 6:06PM) : He is almost too confident in thinking Seaver's is going to be more than fine with not using the slogan anymore. I think they feel as if they don't need to give any logical examples because they feel the rights are too them and no one else.
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Apr 27
C Franz (Apr 27 2020 7:19PM) : I agree, Zoe. Why would they feel this way? What does this suggest about his attitude as an employee of Coca-Cola?
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Apr 28
Meghan Mendez (Apr 28 2020 10:41PM) : I think it kinda shows like they have to big of an ego and they think since they are such a major company they will just have to ask and it will be theirs. It seems to show that he is very confident in himself and the company he works for.
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Apr 29
C Franz (Apr 29 2020 12:04PM) : Great, Meghan!
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Apr 27
Will Michalsky (Apr 27 2020 1:49PM) : Only gives one logical reason why they shouldn't use the phrase since confusion does not make sense.
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Apr 27
Olivia Platt (Apr 27 2020 5:33PM) : I feel like this is not a super strong argument because it is very unlikely that the public will get confused because one is a book and one is a soft drink. Also it's not like no one else has never used the slogan "it's the real thing".
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May 26
Katherine Griffin (May 26 2020 1:06PM) : States that there will be confution and with in the book and the drink for people. But really just when put into context of a conversation it will be easily identifiable.

“It’s the Real Thing” was first used in advertising for Coca-Cola over twenty-seven years ago to refer to our product. We first used it in print advertising in 1942 and extended it to outdoor advertising, including painted walls—some of which are still displayed throughout the country. The line has appeared in advertising for Coca-Cola during succeeding years. For example, in 1954 we used “There’s this about Coke—You Can’t Beat the Real Thing” in national advertising. We resumed national use of “It’s the Real Thing” in the summer of 1969 and it is our main thrust for 1970.

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Apr 27
Angela Grant (Apr 27 2020 12:34PM) : Uses almost the logic behind Coca-Cola and the slogan's history to help add to the argument of why the don't want it to be used as they have been using it so long.
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May 25
student Kayli Fuhrman Rabuck (May 25 2020 3:52PM) : That's true but i don't think it's a good argument because other things have also used this slogan
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Apr 30
Audry Gerow (Apr 30 2020 1:55PM) : Similar format in both letters. more

The first paragraphs talk of the confusion of the two products, Coca-Cola and a book. Then the next paragraphs go into the history of their companies.

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Apr 30
Alisia Schwark (Apr 30 2020 11:54PM) : Mr. Herbert is trying to imply that because Coca-Cola used the slogan first it is only the companies and they don't want anyone making a profit off of what they started.
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May 6
Katarina Assenato (May 06 2020 5:40PM) : I agree. I also feel like is a really common thing to say so, it would be hard for them to make it strictly their brand.
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Please excuse my writing so fully, but I wanted to explain why we feel it necessary to ask you and your associates to use another line to advertise Mr. Haskins’ book.

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Apr 28
Jadyn Torkelson (Apr 28 2020 3:30PM) : Tries to come off that he is sorry about explaining so much of why he shouldn't use the slogan but really isn't because he claims it's "necessary" to use another line, even though they sell completely different things and doesn't really give him a choice
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Apr 28
C Franz (Apr 28 2020 4:51PM) : I agree. His "regret" doesn't seem heartfelt.
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May 28
Lily Navarro (May 28 2020 10:03PM) : Uses "necessary" throughout, like it's required and must be done.
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Jun 6
Lauren Eck (Jun 06 2020 10:45AM) : Sounds like a different person in this paragraph than the previous ones because it's like he's apologizing for how confident he was sounding previously.
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We appreciate your cooperation and assurance that you will discontinue the use of “It’s the real thing.”

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Apr 27
Olivia Platt (Apr 27 2020 5:40PM) : They end the letter with the reassuring confidence in themselves like they know that the writer will follow their wishes with no complaints, it's almost like irony or sarcasm.
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Apr 27
C Franz (Apr 27 2020 7:31PM) : There does seem to be excessive confidence. (The irony and sarcasm is mostly in letter #2.) Why does Herbert have so much confidence?
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May 25
student Kayli Fuhrman Rabuck (May 25 2020 3:54PM) : because he believes that since they've used it for such a long time they have some right to it
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Sincerely,

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Ira C. Herbert

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March 31, 1970

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Mr. Ira C. Herbert

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Coca-Cola USA

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P.O. Drawer 1734

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Atlanta, GA 30301

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Dear Mr. Herbert:

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Thank you for your letter of March 25th, which has just reached me, doubtless because of the mail strike.

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May 26
Katherine Griffin (May 26 2020 1:01PM) : The reference to the mail strike showing how there are more important in the world then than this argument over using a phrase for marketing
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We note with sympathy your feeling that you have proprietary interest in the phrase “It’s the real thing,” and I can fully understand that the public might be confused by our use of the expression, and mistake a book by a Harlem schoolteacher for a six-pack of Coca-Cola. Accordingly, we have instructed all our salesmen to notify bookstores that whenever a customer comes in and asks for a copy of Diary of a Harlem Schoolteacher they should request the sales personnel to make sure that what the customer wants is the book, rather than a Coke. This, we think, should protect your interest and in no way harm ours.

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Apr 27
Logan Kaiser (Apr 27 2020 12:11PM) : Sarcasm in this paragraph is amazing. Really shows why Coca-Cola is wrong for trying to make him stop using “ it’s the real thing”
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Apr 27
C Franz (Apr 27 2020 3:40PM) : Give at least one specific example of Seaver's sarcasm. (Anyone.)
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Apr 28
Meghan Mendez (Apr 28 2020 10:46PM) : Because when he says they have told all our workers to inform bookstores that whenever a customer comes in and asks for a copy of the book they should make sure that what the customer isn't a coke. Obvisoluy some wouldn't walk into a bookstore for a coke
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Apr 30
Alisia Schwark (Apr 30 2020 11:49PM) : There is a lot of sarcasm in this quote with Mr. Seaver saying "especially when no one here in our advertising agency, I am sorry to say, realized that you owned the phrase." Saying this shows that he does not care to fix this so called problem that is more

happening between the companies.

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May 7
Jordyn Anderson (May 07 2020 4:56PM) : I find this as an example of Irony, I think Seaver uses it to make fun of how much Herbert and Coca-Cola are making a big deal of something so small and different. I think it's funny that such a big company is worried about one book ruining their phrase.
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Apr 28
Jadyn Torkelson (Apr 28 2020 3:33PM) : Uses sarcasm because no one is actually gonna mistake a book for a pack of Coca Cola and it is just silly of them to ask him to stop using the slogan.
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Apr 27
Zoe Rohling (Apr 27 2020 6:02PM) : I feel like this sentance is a peice of sarcasm because notifying every bookstore across the country about one specific book and is a little too much and the reader finds its to be funny on how serious they are trying to be.
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May 6
Katarina Assenato (May 06 2020 5:44PM) : I feel like there is a lot of sarcasm and wants to show that they are being serious but i a non-serious way.
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We would certainly not want to dilute the distinctiveness of your trade slogan nor diminish its effectiveness as an advertising and merchandising tool, but it did occur to us that since the slogan is so closely identified with your product, those who read our ad may well tend to go out and buy a Coke rather than our book. We have discussed this problem in an executive committee meeting, and by a vote of seven to six decided that, even if this were the case, we would be happy to give Coke the residual benefit of our advertising.

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Apr 27
Will Michalsky (Apr 27 2020 1:18PM) : Shows how much of a joke the accusation by Coca-Cola really is and how unimportant it is to their company.
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Apr 27
C Franz (Apr 27 2020 3:39PM) : Good, Will!

Problems not unsimilar to the ones you raise in your letter have occurred to us in the past. You may recall that we published Games People Play which became one of the biggest nonfiction best-sellers of all time, and spawned conscious imitations (Games Children Play, Games Psychiatrists Play, Games Ministers Play, etc.) I am sure you will agree that this posed a far more direct and deadly threat to both the author and ourselves than our use of “It’s the real thing.” Further, Games People Play has become part of our language, and one sees it constantly in advertising, as a newspaper headline, etc. The same is true of another book which we published six or seven years ago, One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding.

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Apr 27
Angela Grant (Apr 27 2020 12:29PM) : Uses allusions to Games People Play and One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding both to show that this isn't something that has only happened once. Using that to help prove point.
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Apr 27
C Franz (Apr 27 2020 3:39PM) : Do you think these are real allusions? (I don't know the answer to this question.) What is the significance of these specific titles as they relate to their arguments?
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Given our strong sentiments concerning the First Amendment, we will defend to the death your right to use “It’s the real thing” in any advertising you care to. We would hope you would do the same for us, especially when no one here in our advertising agency, I am sorry to say, realized that you owned the phrase. We were merely quoting in our ads Peter S. Prescott’s review of Diary of a Harlem Schoolteacher in Look which begins “Diary of a Harlem Schoolteacher is the real thing, a short, spare, honest book which will, I suspect, be read a generation hence as a classic…”

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Apr 29
Kyle Brand (Apr 29 2020 4:09PM) : Evokes pathos by using "Given our strong sentiments concerning the First Amendment" and establishes ethos by stating their care
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Apr 30
C Franz (Apr 30 2020 9:26AM) : Yes. There's a bit of a tone shift right here, as he gets serious and a bit preachy.
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May 28
Isaiah Alwin (May 28 2020 11:53AM) : Mentions the first amendment, already using more logic as to why they should be allowed to use it than Coca-Cola did for why they can’t
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May 7
Jordyn Anderson (May 07 2020 5:03PM) : I feel as if this is the final blow to the argument, stating that no one in the agency even knew about the phrase, he also says that coca-cola "owned" the phrase which is irony as well because it is a phrase anyone can use,its not like coca-cola patented more

the phrase.

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Apr 30
Audry Gerow (Apr 30 2020 1:52PM) : Using ethos more

Mr. Seaver is promoting the book and assures that it deserves the slogan “It’s the real thing.” His letter is full of sarcasm and big-headed-ness. This gives humor for the reader, but his audience, Mr. Herbert, is most likely not amused.

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Jun 5
Nisse Rosholt (Jun 05 2020 5:52PM) : you can almost hear the snarky tone. he talks with a faux nievate about how he dident realize that they owned the specific words used in their advert
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Jun 5
Nisse Rosholt (Jun 05 2020 11:45PM) : the man in the second letter stated that their advert. was likely more benificial to cocacola than it is to their own company.

With all best wishes,

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Apr 30
Audry Gerow (Apr 30 2020 1:44PM) : The closing is sort of passive-aggressive and trying to mimic the formality in Mr. Herbert's letter. It shows that he is serious in the fact that they will keep using the slogan.
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Sincerely yours,

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Richard Seaver

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© Coca-Cola correspondence from Evergreen Review. Reprinted by permission of Grove/Atlantic, Inc 1970 by Evergreen Review.

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DMU Timestamp: April 20, 2020 22:34

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