NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- For Diet Coke, a successful experiment with webisodes, live events and an unusual use of place-based video last year has the soda brand coming back for another round.
Last winter, Diet Coke made a kind of Times Square history when it became the first brand to simulcast a live event from the Reuters digital video screen, filmed just above the street in the Thomson Reuters studio. That event, "The Style Series," was part of a broader online video push on Diet Coke's part to use short-form webisodes (in this case, interviews with Rihanna and designer Cynthia Rowley and a performance from singer Robin Thicke, among others) to brand itself around fashion and music to attract a younger, broader demo beyond the 40-something females that have helped build the brand since its debut in 1982.
The result? A younger median age of visitors to DietCoke.com, the main hub for "The Style Series" (26, down from mid-40s a year prior); 25 million video impressions from a series of display video ads on key websites such as those of People, Glamour and Billboard, bought by Coke's media agency MediaVest. Most significantly, the series seemed to have Diet Coke hold on to sales, which remained flat during a troubling first-quarter for soft drinks.
For its second act, Diet Coke and its production partners at Digital Broadcasting Group are creating 12 shorter webisodes for the second season of "The Style Series," which debuted Thursday with another Times Square simulcast, this time from Diet Coke's new pop-up store across the street from Tiffany & Co. on New York's Fifth Avenue. "Top Chef" judge Tom Colicchio will appear in several clips preparing healthy, easy-to-make dishes, while Jewel will perform two of her best-known singles ("You Were Meant For Me" and "Hands") and an a capella cover of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
Future installments will be filmed from the Thomson Reuters studio in October and at New York's Food & Wine Festival, where Mr. Colicchio will also appear and Diet Coke will serve as a sponsor.
William White, Diet Coke brand director, Coca-Cola North America, said the "Style Series" has become an engagement vehicle that helps the brand associate its various sponsorship activities into original content that speaks to its "Just for the taste of it" tagline. "Whether it's the series, the store, or our event sponsorships, we want to create integrated marketing that can be associated with eating well and living well," he said. "Now we want to continue on the success we've had and create content that people want to stick with."
Part of that process for the second season means shorter video clips, cutting each episode's running time in half from their five-minute or longer counterparts during the first season. "We learned a lot about the patience for how long people want to watch web video," Mr. White said.
"We want to make sure the content is credible and can stand on its own," added Rick Kleckowski, chief operating officer of Digital Broadcasting Group, which produced the first and second season.
Despite the pop-up store's less-than-subtle branding (everything from the chairs to the kitchen to the employees' outfits is colored in the brand's distinct red, white and black hues), that credibility seems to extend right down to the talent this season, as Diet Coke's relationship with Mr. Colicchio also extends to its sponsorship of Bravo's "Top Chef: Las Vegas," and an affinity with singer Jewel.
"Diet Coke happens to be my soda of choice, but this was also just a fun series to be a part of," the newly independent singer told Ad Age, having recently parted ways with longtime label Atlantic Records. "The music industry is the new Wild West right now, so it's nice to know there's still a good market for good art."
DBG has also executed similar approaches to branded web series for Kimberly-Clark's Scott paper towels and the U.S. Air Force, which DBG CEO Chris Young calls a new-media execution of the 30-second TV spot. "We're asking brands, why not do take what you do so well offline, and do it online?"