The forces of The Coca-Cola Company and the powerhouse advertising agency Widen+Kennedy have merged forces again to create an ad campaign for this year’s Super Bowl. And this year they are taking it to a new level of “meta,” by quasi-empowering the public to decide which ad they will show during Super Bowl XLVI.

We say “quasi” for a few reasons. First, the voting public will only get to decide on the end of the ad (granted, we are discussing a 30 second bit of film here, so “the end” may be overly weighty language!). And second, it’s not like we get to direct what happens in any major way, we merely get to choose which of three groups “gets the coke.”

In this case, “the coke” is a towering bottle of Coca-Cola perched atop a dune in a rolling desert landscape. The groups vying for the colossal Coke are:

  1. A bunch of Vegas-style showgirls on a bus. (They have AC on the bus, and do not get our vote! No Coke for you!)
  2. A bunch of cowboys. We’re pulling for these wranglers! These are our boys!
  3. The “Badlanders.” Which actually means the “Totally ripped off from the awesome cult classic film The Road Warrior.Go back to the badlands, we say!

Take a look at the “unfinished commercial,” (which, with a striking lack of creativity was named “The Mirage”; if you’re going to take the trouble to name your damn commercial, spend more than 22 seconds pondering said name!) and the voting module here:

Watch Coca Cola’s Preview:

And Vote on http://www.cokechase.com/

And then let us know what you think: who deserves to win? Is this a clever way to involve the viewing (and clicking) public, or is it a craven blurring of the line between tasteful commercial art and blatant consumer manipulation? Wait, what? They’re giving away thousands of cokes to the first 50,000 people who vote and then stay engaged in the “race”? Well then, um, we’ll vote Cowboys Win and we’re in for the long haul. Free coke! Free coke!