Polar Bears With an Opinion-Behind Coke's Integrated Super Bowl Effort

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In a twist on Super Bowl marketing, Coca-Cola has prepared two versions of a 60-second spot slated to run during the second quarter. It won't decide which to actually run until it sees whether the New York Giants or New England Patriots have the upper hand.

It appears to be a first-of-its-kind endeavor, requiring the beverage giant to have execs on site at NBC during the game. They will be in the traffic room to decide which spot runs when the game goes to a commercial break, said Pio Schunker, senior-VP integrated marketing at Coca-Cola.

The ad, "Catch," shows two polar bears watching the Super Bowl, each wearing a scarf in his team's colors: red and white for the Giants and blue and white for the Patriots.

During a commercial break, one bear steps outside the arctic cave and sees a group of polar bears lounging and drinking Coke. When the bears toss him a Coke and he fumbles the bottle, an acrobatic series ensues until he slides to a halt with the bottle finally secured. The bear whose team is losing will be the one to step outside the cave.

If the teams are tied, the decision will be made based on the most-recent plays and which is deemed most in need of a Coke.

"Sure, it's probably not something [NBC] wants to set a precedent on, but the idea was appealing to them because of the buzz factor," said Mr. Schunker. "It's certainly [tough] to do, but we managed to talk them into it for those reasons."

Coca-Cola will also have execs on hand at ESPN to manage another ad, "Argh!" In that ad, the bear whose team loses takes a walk to vent his frustration.

Polar Bears, Live from the Sideline
The ads are part of an integrated Super Bowl campaign featuring two polar bears that are fans of opposing teams. The bears will be watching the game live, sharing their reactions to plays, the halftime show and commercials at www.cokepolarbowl.com.

The team at Coca-Cola agency Wieden & Kennedy has been practicing for three months, watching old footage of games to prepare for a variety of game-day scenarios, Mr. Schunker said.

360i and the Coca-Cola team have been working to develop a "voice" for the bears on Facebook and Twitter that's both "charming" and "cheeky." It's the first time the polar bears will have "voices," said Mr. Schunker, although they still won't speak in the commercials.

One of the biggest technical challenges on the project was managing the time-delay on bear responses. Jeff Gillette, a creative director at Wieden, Portland, pointed out that the bears cannot be responding to on-screen action immediately as it's happening, as audiences would likely miss either what's going on the field, or with the bears themselves. Instead, a 4-to-7 second delay has been built in between live action and online. Mobile, however, has a streaming latency of 40 seconds -- so the mobile offering is vastly different. If you visit CokePolarBowl.com on your smartphone during the game, you don't get to see the live feed. Instead, you get a compilation of tweets and fan-submitted messages and photos. Occasionally, clips from the live feed will be shared on the mobile site as "shareable moments," but overall, the focus is on social messaging, according to Gillette.

In addition to having execs on site at NBC and ESPN to manage different versions of the broadcast ads, Mr. Schunker said the company will have a command center in New York, where his team and key execs from Wieden will manage the live stream and animation of the bears. They'll be located in a control room at Major League Baseball's Advanced Media group.

Using a hacked Xbox controller, Wieden creatives will manipulate the bears to respond to what is going on air. The actions, whether a "Sigh" or a happy dance, are slightly randomized, so even the creative puppeteers, as Gillette calls them, don't know exactly which action the bears will do. There are also some funny pop-culture moments built in to the feed. When the on-screen action is a bit slow, a penguin might walk on and "plank" between two Coke bottles. "An army of tweeters will also be on hand," said Gillette. They will be responsible for responding to fan tweets and offering commentary on the game.

Meanwhile, Katie Bayne, president-general manager of sparkling beverages, Coca-Cola North America, and Alison Lewis, chief marketing officer, Coca-Cola North America, will be at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis sending feedback to the team in New York. They plan to have at least three screens each, Ms. Bayne said.

Contributing: Shareen Pathak
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