Songs for Screens: Inside Tyler The Creator’s Original Score (and Single) for Coca-Cola, ‘Tell Me How’

Andrew Hampp
·4-min read

No one seemed more excited about the late February emergence of Coca-Cola’s new campaign featuring an original song composed by Tyler, The Creator than Tyler himself.

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“mannnn thanks coca cola for reallll big love for the opportunity,” Tyler tweeted upon its release, among several other tweets effusively expressing his pride for the spot. “i was like ehh idk but then i fucking ran with it. commercials need sounds like this, thanksssss.”

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The two-minute film, “Open That Coca-Cola,” was created by ad agency Wieden + Kennedy and debuted to a warm reception on Feb. 21, logging over 680,000 views on YouTube in its first two weeks of release. On Friday (March 4) the song itself, entitled “Tell Me How (Coca-Cola Commercial)” was released to all DSPs as a standalone single.

The campaign and single are just the first steps of what will be a year-long relationship between Tyler and Coke, according to Maurice Hamilton, CEO of The SMC Group, a rights procurement agency that brokered Tyler’s deal on behalf of Coca-Cola. “Coke needed somebody who understood the vision and could connect with teens and young adults in an authentic way, and Tyler just does that. He has a way of speaking to his audience that’s always captivating and always original – it’s never stale after a couple communications. We have other things coming down the line and this is just the start of it.”

Though Tyler wasn’t directly involved in the campaign’s visuals, the short even has a similar look and feel to what you’d expect from a Tyler, The Creator music video — saturated colors, eccentric special effects and rubbery dance moves. “It started with just him coming up with a track, but he ended up scoring it frame by frame, second by second to have the best audio execution to match the film,” says Jennifer Frommer, senior VP-creative content at Tyler’s label Columbia Records, who worked with Hamilton on the deal. “He really got into the aesthetic and the creative of the film, and because it was one artist to another artist you could appreciate the intricacies of how gorgeous the cinematography was and the production of the film. He wanted to get on the phone with the client almost every day. He wouldn’t stop talking about it.”

The Coca-Cola partnership also marks Tyler’s first time working with a soft drink since a 2013 campaign he directed for Mountain Dew and aired on Adult Swim got pulled for controversial content. Tyler defended the spot to Billboard at the time, particularly for the broader opportunities it signified. “It’s a young black man who got out of the ‘hood and made something of himself, who’s now working with big, white-owned corporations,” he said at the time. “Not even in front of the camera acting silly, but directing it. I’m trying to be one of the directors.” Tyler’s creative output post-Odd Future has also evolved several times in the past eight years to focus on more introspective solo work, resulting in his first two platinum singles (2017’s “See You Again” and 2019’s “Earfquake”) and first Grammy Award (Best Rap Album for “Igor,” which he accepted during the 2020 telecast).

SMC’s Hamilton says the brand and agency teams “were very trusting” in giving Tyler the creative reins to score the campaign to ensure it had his unique stamp on it. “I can’t speak on behalf of Coke, but we understood that Tyler’s creative genius has no boundaries to it. The Coke team was courageous enough to go with him on that journey, and we understood it was going to be something that they weren’t going to be able to micromanage. They were great in allowing him to just do what he does and, and that’s why we have the result we have today.”

For Frommer, the Coca-Cola score also marked the first chance she got to properly collaborate with Tyler on a brand campaign since joining Columbia in 2016. “For me to work with him has been a dream come true,” she says.

Songs for Screens is a Variety column sponsored by Anzie Blue, a wellness company and café based in Nashville. It is written by Andrew Hampp, founder of music marketing consultancy 1803 LLC and former correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column highlights noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as film and TV. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @ahampp.

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