CNN. Coca-Cola. The College Football Hall of Fame. Intellectually, those don’t really have anything in common. But in downtown Atlanta, within about eight city blocks, you can tour each of these institutions. With my free time in Atlanta in short supply, I wasn’t sure I’d get to all three, so I started with the one I most wanted to see first.
This is CNN.
As someone whose hair started going grey a decade or two earlier that normal, I was mostly hoping this tour would give me the chance to bump into Anderson Cooper for some hair care tips. Alas, he and I did not have the opportunity to regale each other with stories of our distinguished, yet boyishly good looks. I did get to meet Headline News host Mike Galanos and chat with him from the sidelines while his co-host Robin Meade was live on air. It was really interesting to see the polish and performance of the hosts as they were broadcasting live. I’m not sure my demo tape would allow me to make the cut, even though I think I’d be a welcome addition to CNN’s weather reporting.
One of the more interesting things on the tour was listening in to the producers in the control room during one of the morning segments on the main CNN channel. As a show came back from commercials and a talking head was answering a question from one of the hosts, you could hear one producer say “wow, that dude must have had some trouble shaving this morning.” That cracked up everyone on our tour. That same talking head about 30 seconds later was struggling to say a word in his answer and we could all hear that same producer saying “it’s corroborate… corroborate… say it!!!!….. corroborate… <expletive>, learn to talk…” Good times.
My early morning visit to CNN worked up quite a thirst, so I headed over to the World of Coca-Cola to learn all about Coke’s history. There’s no doubt what the highlight was for me – getting to meet the Coca-Cola mascot, one of their friendly soft drink consuming polar bears.
A close second was trying soft drinks from around the world. You could grab a glass then try as many as you could stomach. I really enjoyed the “Thumbs Up” cola from India and the Stoney Ginger Beer from Tanzania. Greece’s Fanta pineapple was horrific and the bitter Beverly beverage from Italy tasted more like paint thinner than anything refreshing to me. I probably sampled 60-70 of these and found it really interesting to see what people around the world drink on a day to day basis.
I found the displays at World of Coca-Cola fascinating. There was a wealth of information on the history of Coke and all of the thinking that went into the branding and distribution of product around the world. There were also some very interesting displays of Coca-Cola in art, including these Warhol prints:
And in a nod to one of the most unmitigated disasters in branding and product development ever, there was even a display on “New Coke”
A little later in my visit to Atlanta, with a few bonus hours to fill, I popped over to the College Football Hall of Fame. I’m not a huge follower of American college football, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the number of teams and the loyalty of fans south of the border. The museum has a wall featuring the helmets of every team in the country.
There were great interactive displays – I got a chance to do play by play calls for the most famous plays in football history, had a brief semi-interactive chat with virtual Peyton Manning, learned about some of the most famous college football mascots and saw all of the trophies handed out each year, including the Heisman Trophy given to the best player.
These were all super fun stops on my trip to Atlanta, even if I am still waiting for an apology from Anderson Cooper for standing me up.