NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- If the AT&T Blue Room and the Dell Lounge have proved anything, it's that brands don't need a TV network or a major web portal to reach a sizeable audience with entertaining content. Attempting to join their ranks is Diet Coke, which this week launched "The Style Series, presented by Diet Coke," the first event streamed live via the internet, outdoor electronic billboards and mobile phones.
Filmed in Times Square, the series debut featured a performance from R&B singer Robin Thicke, the exclusive premiere of Rihanna's new e-film for Gucci, and an interview with designer Cynthia Rowley. Hosted by Josh Zepps and Rachel Zalis, former West Coast editor of Glamour, the series was simultaneously broadcast on the Nasdaq and Reuters electronic billboards in Times Square, on Diet Coke's website and through online video banners across more than 75 video sites (including YouTube, InStyle.com and Yahoo). Viewers outside the Thomson Reuters building could use their mobile phones to listen to audio from the live broadcast, which was estimated to reach 1.5 million people based on average daily foot traffic in Times Square.
Though rival Pepsi has been associated with its mega-celebrity advertising, Susan Stribling, director of communications for Coca-Cola North America, said "The Style Series" was a natural part of Diet Coke's brand heritage, ever since its splashy launch in 1982 as a sugar-free alternative to regular Coke. "The brand has always been a style-conscious part of the entertainment world," she said. "Through talking to Diet Coke consumers over the past year or so, they look to the brand to be a sophisticated style-setter, so we started looking at different ways we could express that."
The soft drink then turned to MediaVest, its media agency of record, and Digital Broadcasting Group (DBG), an online branded-entertainment production and video distribution company, to help conceive a short-form entertainment series that had the look and feel of an entertainment news show along the lines of "Good Morning America" or "Extra" without actually being on TV. "As much as we can make this feel like something they might tune in to see on television with relevant, good content, the greater chance at success we have," Ms. Stribling said.
Cynthia Rowley gets on board
The unique distribution also appealed to Ms. Rowley, who appeared in the second segment of the series premiere. "We're always interested in new ways to reach our audience through use of the latest technology," she said. "This project is exciting because it combines mobile, outdoor and digital media as a new means of bringing American fashion to people all over the world."
DBG helped source the talent for "The Style Series," looking for personalities that would broadly define the Diet Coke viewer but also make sense when appearing in a video banner ad on a site like People.com. "This was a platform for talent to touch their fan base in a way they hadn't been able to historically," said Rick Kleczkowski, chief operating officer of DBG. "Given the channel convergence right now, there is a tremendous opportunity for advertisers to invest in original programming online."
The first episode of "The Style Series" will remain available at DietCoke.com, while edited versions will continue to appear across the DBG network that reaches 105 million unique monthly users. A second installment is planned to air in January, with a third also confirmed for first-quarter 2009. No official talent has been confirmed for upcoming episodes, but Ms. Stribling indicated that the brand will likely showcase its relationship with Heidi Klum and the Heart Truth campaign, from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.