2007 Creativity Award Winner: Coca-Cola: "The Coke Side of Life" Campaign

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Wieden + Kennedy's "Coke Side of Life" campaign earns a hearty round of applause and one of this year's Creativity Awards for giving an omnipresent brand a fresh shot of fizzy energy. Soon after executive creative directors Al Moseley and John Norman arrived at the agency's Amsterdam office, they pitched and won Coke, and development of the global branding campaign swung into action. Debuting in March 2006, the effort was anchored by "Happiness Factory," a massive animation spot created along with Psyop that was originally conceived as one of several "Bottle Films," a series of viral efforts that played on the idea that Coke is "happiness in a bottle." The extravaganza begins when a young man drops a coin into a Coke vending machine, and it travels into the hidden world that lies within, populated by 13 types of whimsical workers (narrowed down from a bounty of character ideas) who help make Coke special—including the lovable helicopter-pig hybrids known as "Chinoinks." As the story goes, when agency producer Tom Dunlap and Moseley met with the Coke client and presented Psyop's treatment, the client applauded and told them they should start planning the theme park. But one spot, however epic, does not a campaign make.
By August, W+K/ Portland's "Videogame"—a Grand Theft Auto-styled CG spot with all the violence replaced by good deeds and the now-customary Coke parade—was racing through cinemas and the online world, inspiring YouTube remixes against classic Coke jingles. Directed by Nexus Productions' Smith & Foulkes (no strangers to epic animation, having won at Cannes with Honda "Grrr" in 2005), this execution alone initially was intended for the Super Bowl—but instead "Happiness Factory," "Videogame" and "First Taste" (an earlier execution in the campaign in which an elderly man finally lives life to the fullest after tasting a Coke) all made the big game.

Q&A with Wieden/Amsterdam ECDs Al Moseley and John Norman

You two had just arrived at Wieden + Kennedy when you won this pitch—it seems like you couldn't have fathomed it'd be this big. Did you?

Al Moseley: Well, we knew it was going to big because it was going to be Coca-Cola. But we could have never imagined it was going to be as successful as this— how now we see it all over the world, running in so many countries. It's been so successful for them in so many ways.

What was the key? What brought that success?

Moseley: I think it was kind of tapping into a global consciousness of what people thought about the brand. "The Coke Side of Life" is something that people can buy into wherever you live, whatever you believe in or whatever culture you come from. So it felt like it had a more universal kind of appeal. One thing that we discovered when we came up with this campaign was that at that time Coke was ubiquitous as a brand, but it had lost it's meaning. And I think the one thing that "The Coke Side of Life" has done is it has given it back its true meaning and connected it to people.

John Norman: Coke management at the time had really realized that their brand meant nothing, and it was time to put a real current point of view back on Coke and to make it feel more modern. I think that allowed us to actually create a sentiment and a platform that were very co-authorship oriented and that had a very democratic view on the world. I think that's what "The Coke Side of Life" has done; it allows you to choose one way or another. I think Coke is always on the yes side. I think that's a very open way, and if they keep going with the way they're going with this platform, you'll see a lot more extended uses and ways to articulate "The Coke Side of Life" that aren't advertisement, that become more entertainment, more community building, that sort of thing. Can you elaborate on that?

Norman: They're getting into other mediums, other types of forms of expressions of entertainment.

Coke prefers to make situations able to apply to a lot of different places with its global campaigns. Two of the major TV efforts were animation; is that an easy way out, to go with a big animation, or is it the best way?

Norman: It is easy to use animation as a medium, as a device, to communicate globally. In the States, I think it was just an idea, and we were trying to communicate a message of world love. But it's not a conscious thing to choose animation. It just happened to be something that works well for "Happiness Factory." There were no conflicts of culture.

Moseley: If you think about the appeal of Shrek, it's just so mass, and Coca-Cola's appeal is so mass. So is Disney's. It's so mainstream and you've got to appeal to so many people, you do need a medium that allows you to draw people in the same way, and animation is excellent for that.

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