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'Every artist has a message'

“I’M CONNECTING with you right now and you’re connecting with me, so I love you even if I don’t know you.”

With those words, Jon Batiste launched into a mini-set at yesterday’s Coca-Cola Company, WPP Open X and VMLY&R seminar on The Terrace Stage, ending with a powerful, drilled-down rendition of his new song for Coke Studio, Be Who You Are.

And there was no doubt that the audience — some Gen Z, some just wishing they were — were connecting right back with the Academy and Grammy Award-winning musician, whose eighth studio album, We Are, was released to overwhelming critical acclaim in March 2021.

The session — Hear and Be Heard: How to Serenade Gen Z — explored how Coke Studio is harnessing the power of music to connect with a generation of young consumers famous for their fleeting attention span and aversion to traditional advertising. Leading the way is Coke Studio, an innovative music platform that brings together musicians from around the world in what Joshua Burke, global head of music for The Coca-Cola Company, called “creative collisions”. “That means bringing together two or more artists from across genres, cultures, countries, communities and generations to create something new and special that bridges divides,” he said. Referencing Coca-Cola’s global brand platform, Burke added: “This is how we achieve ‘Real Magic’ and connect with our Gen Z audiences in meaningful and authentic ways.”

Speaking at the panel debate after his performance, moderated by Kyla Jacobs, WPP Open X’s global category lead for Coca-Cola, Batiste said the creative economy is becoming a lot more democratic. “And I think that’s a beautiful thing,” he added. “It’s just a matter of how you siphon through all the incredible energy and people to find the right place for you to speak your message. I really believe every artist has a message — and there are people out there who that message is meant to reach.”

Rafael Pitanguy, deputy global chief creative officer at VMLY&R, leads the creative for key client, The Coca-Cola Company. “It’s all about the music — that’s obvious and fundamental,” he said. “There’s nothing bigger than the music and making sure it gets to the people and that they’re touched by the song.”

This resonated with Burke: “The North Star of the Coke Studio programme is that, if the music isn’t good, none of this stuff actually matters.”


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