'Yard' Sale? Sprite Talks to Teens With Mobile Promotions

Coca-Cola Launches Interactive Site in Shift From Traditional Media to the 'Critical' Third Screen

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- While others have gingerly experimented, Coca-Cola Co. has become one of the first major marketers to commit wholeheartedly to mobile marketing.
Guinea pig: Coke will develop similar programs for other brands.
Guinea pig: Coke will develop similar programs for other brands.

In a keynote at the Mobile Marketing Association's Mobile Marketing Forum in New York City last week, Mark Greatrex, senior VP-marketing communications and insights at Coca-Cola, said the soft-drink marketer has decided to center its marketing for the Sprite brand, its No. 2 label, on the mobile phone, with TV and other media playing secondary roles. Eventually, other brands will follow suit with similar mobile programs to target today's multitasking, traditional-media-avoiding teens, he said.

'Where it's at'
"Mobile media is where it's at for us going forward," he said. "The Coca-Cola Co. is making a major investment in mobile marketing, which is absolutely mission-critical in reaching new generations of our consumers," he said.

He introduced the "Sprite Yard," a MySpace-like mobile website, which launched in China earlier this month and is scheduled to be introduced in late June in the U.S.

Mr. Greatrex said the Yard is a key element of a new Sprite marketing strategy that will "help move us from being on air in traditional media some of the time to being accessible to our consumers all of the time. It's also going to help move us from generating impressions to creating powerful consumer connections."

Sprite plans to seed the Yard with an on-package campaign on some of the 10 billion single-serve bottles it sells each year. Each container will have instructions to text the word "Yard" to 59666. That, in turn, will deliver to phones a mobile-web link, which when activated will allow users to register, set up a tag name, and add information to share with friends. Features include photo sharing, a message board, an activity planner and "shouts" -- mobile messages from one Yard member to another or to a group of users.

"Yard users will literally have their friends in their pockets," Mr. Greatrex said.

Reinforcing purchasing behavior
Sprite believes the Yard, developed by Isobar, provides a unique way for a package-goods brand centered on single-serve products to reinforce purchasing behavior. Consumers will find codes under bottle caps that can be entered into the Yard to receive prizes such as visual ringtones and games.

Of course, wherever there's a social network, parental concerns about safety are not far behind. Mr. Greatrex said the Yard will be monitored to provide "a PG-13 experience" to its youth audience.
Mark Greatrex, senior VP-marketing communications and insights at Coca-Cola
Mark Greatrex, senior VP-marketing communications and insights at Coca-Cola

The Yard will compete with the other MySpace-like products for the mobile phone, such as Helio's community offerings and a new offering from Virgin Mobile and Facebook that allows customers to share mobile content.

Young medium
While many of the speakers at the MMA forum emphasized the growth of the third screen, a panel on media buying provided a reality check, pointing out some of the young medium's deficiencies. "Other channels are more effective today to reach the same consumers," said Eric Bader, senior VP-managing director of digital connections at MediaVest Worldwide, comparing online with mobile-marketing vehicles. He also balked at some mobile platforms' cost-per-thousand rates, which can be in the $60 to $75 range. "It's competing with search and the directories, and those CPMs are in the $4 to $7 to $10 range," Mr. Bader said. He said the mobile medium will come of age in a manner similar to the internet.

Currently, mobile-web access can be compared to the dial-up speeds of old on the internet. When the technology moves to the mobile equivalent of broadband, that's when the "money is going to flow in," Mr. Bader said.
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