Launches During NCAA 'Final Four' Games With TV, Billboards, Concerts

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NEW YORK ( -- After trying a dose of reality, Coca-Cola Co. is turning to the effervescent message that drinking a Coke is "happiness in a bottle" for its new advertising campaign. While TV is a major aspect of the global effort, themed "The Coke side of life," digital, viral and consumer-created content will dominate the continuous feed of creative during the year.

Out-of-home network
Artfully designed wild postings, wallscapes and billboards are intended to manifest the optimism of the campaign in high-impact locations and events, including in Indianapolis this weekend where the NCAA Final Four basketball championship takes place. Coke purchased the top 10 billboards in the top 28 markets via Clear Channel to create an out-of-home network for the effort. And on the Web, Coke and its agencies have teamed up with small production companies to create 15-second viral videos called "Bottle Films" to express love for the liquid, the experience and the brand.

The marketer has also teamed with Island Def Jam for an online music platform in which the R&B artist Ne-Yo performs songs and gives a 12-minute interview about what makes him happy. Tagged as a "Coke Side of Life" production, the 95-second audio clips are being made available as free downloads for consumers to share freely on peer-to-peer networks and mobile media devices.

Another program, called "Cokies," provides rich-media interactive Coke-bottle avatars that pop up on computer screens to direct users to special offers and entertainment.

'The Big Dig'
The marketer is aiming to "make Coke more important to people," said Esther Lee, chief creative officer, marketing, strategy and innovation of Coca-Cola. Executives conducted a massive research project Coke called "The Big Dig," which revealed that consumers had a "deep-down love for the brand, but it wasn't as top of mind." They also learned that what loyal Coke drinkers love most about the brand was the physical and emotional uplift they got when drinking the product.

Built off the universal theme of happiness, the marketer considered several strategies before focusing on the notion that Coke was "happiness in a bottle." Accordingly, much of the new creative has revived the iconic shape of the Georgia glass bottle.

The result is a global multimedia platform from independent Wieden & Kennedy, Amsterdam and Portland, Ore., that breaks this weekend in the U.S.

One of the new spots breaking during the Final Four shows a fill-in-the-blank space to congratulate the eventual winner. Another follows a woman's experience of dating several men, where the conversation is expressed in obnoxious sounds. When the woman meets her perfect match, the sounds they make are of a bottle opening and the drink filling the glass with a fizz.

A third, "Ringtone," shown in an analyst meeting in December, portrays a young man making the sounds of a cellphone ring tone. He then pulls out a bottle of Coke and hands it to a girl sitting next to him. Opening it, he says, "It's for you."

Starring role
"Offering someone a Coke is almost the same as saying hello," said Katie Bayne, senior VP-Coca-Cola brands for Coca-Cola North America, explaining why only Coke could pull off a campaign like this. The effort is also a contrast to earlier campaigns in which Coke was present but wasn't the star of the spot. "We've made mistakes in marketing to youth with work that was gritty but not aspirational," she added.

Other spots show an elderly man in a nursing home who tries a Coke for the first time and ponders what else he's missed in life. A 90-second version of the spot can be tailored to different concepts for local use around the world. The commercial was hotly debated by Coke executives who were concerned about whether the experiences of an old man would be relevant to young drinkers, but they credited Wieden's casting with making it work.

Coke's most ambitious spot, "Parade," aims to convey why "we love the brand" and how the drink brings people together, along the lines of its iconic "Hilltop" commercial. It shows a young boy riding his bike into a long hometown parade as he drinks his Coke.

"Happiness is big in the small things," said Ms. Lee.

Beyond TV
Other elements include digital promotions, print and out-of-home and an extensive online effort with viral videos. Additional elements, created by other roster agencies, will roll out over the summer around the globe.

"Because Coca-Cola is a global brand with local connections and meanings, 'The Coke Side of Life' offers each country an opportunity to interpret its own moments of happiness and the brand's role in those," Ms. Lee said. Coke is inviting business units in other countries to add to the effort to their marketing programs through joint global initiatives.

During the National Collegiate Athletic Aassociation's Final Four basketball tournament in Indianapolis April 2, the marketer will launch the MyCokeFest event, with performances by Chris Brown, Collective Soul, The Wreckers featuring Michelle Branch, and Carrie Underwood. Rocker John Mellencamp will perform a homecoming concert sponsored by Coca-Cola and the NCAA.

Coke added $400 million to its annual marketing and product development to better support the trademark. Ms. Bayne credited Wieden & Kennedy, particularly agency principal Dan Wieden, with bringing together the intrinsic and extrinsic aspects of the brand.

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