Side Note

Nostalgia for Surge soda is the latest sign of our descent into decadence and decay

When I was a kid, my parents never let me drink Surge. Maybe it was those commercials where dudes screamed “SUUUUUUURGE!!!!” at each other before doing extreme sports and/or riding on a green airplane, or maybe it was the fact that, given that the Surge was created by Coca-Cola with the express intent of being the most extreme soda in history, my parents were justifiably concerned about my health. In retrospect, it was probably the latter, and given that I am nearly 30 years old with no extreme health problems to speak of, I very much appreciate their decision.

Upon Surge’s late-90s debut, however, I was obsessed with this forbidden fruit. My child brain associated drinking Surge with skateboarding and dressing like you were in Smash Mouth, two other things that I desperately wanted to do precisely because my parents forbade them. After two decades of energy drinks that progressively built upon Surge’s promise of giving you so much energy that coffee starts to seem like a downer, Surge itself almost seems like a restrained choice, perhaps even quaint.

It is exactly this sense of nostalgia that drives Coca-Cola’s latest exercise in Surge branding, the Surge Pager, a pager that tells you when Surge is exclusively available at Coca-Cola freestyle machines in Burger King. According to Adweek, in addition to making the dumb ad that you can watch above, Surge actually gave away a few of these things in Brooklyn outside of an Apple store, which both confirms my suspicion that marketers look at the borough’s residents as participants in a never-ending focus group and also makes me extremely happy that I no longer live there.

The idea that drinking Surge will transport you to a simpler time when nobody had a smartphone is pretty ridiculous — I’d hazard a guess that nobody who actually drank Surge was old enough to have their own pager, for one, and also, if you really don’t want a smartphone, you don’t have to drink Surge to earn the right to throw yours away. It’s an attempt at a bait-and-switch that claims the key to living a simpler life isn’t to just live simply, but instead consume products that remind you of a more innocent age when everyone had spiky hair, zero cell phones, and precisely one can of Surge rushing through their veins at all times. Perhaps the most depressing part of all of this is that I have no doubt that Coca-Cola, with their presumably unconscionable marketing budget, determined that this is what people want. This is how it ends: with cynical synergistic corporate marketing campaigns and a battle cry of “SUUUUUUUUURGE!!!!!!!!!!!!”