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Home > Business > Special

The buzz without fizz

Govindkrishna Seshan | September 11, 2007

An ad for a soft drink with no visuals of the bottle, the drink being poured or even someone swigging from a bottle or can. Doesn't that break some unwritten rules of advertising?

Not according to McCann Erickson, which has just launched the first "corporate" campaign for Coca-Cola India -- and there's no fizzy drink in sight.

The first of two, 45-second films shows a young couple arguing, with the girl walking away. Her boyfriend quickly pulls her to a store window displaying wedding gowns and poses next to the headless mannequin. She smiles and they make up. The soft male voiceover says, "We may not spend the next seven lives together, but we can make a promise to."

As their images dissolve into a coloured bubble, the scene shifts to an elderly woman leaning over a balcony, clearly lonely and bored. Just then, her two friends drive up in a vintage car and invite her to join them. As she hurries across the street, sunglasses perched perkily on her nose, three little girls cycling past turn and smile.

"We cannot stop age, but we can still celebrate the evenings together," goes the voice over as the happy faces float up in a bubble. The film ends with bottle crowns showing all Coca-Cola Co brands in India. "We will spread joy with every drop," promises the voiceover as a new logo, Coca-Cola India, appears on screen.

The second ad shows families: playing in the rain after picnic plans are washed away in a sudden deluge, still celebrating the day after Diwali´┐Ż Like we said, no cold, sweating cans and no bottles of cola or indeed, any drink at all.

"We aren't trying to sell products here," Explains Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman and regional creative director, south and south east Asia, McCann-Erickson. "The campaign is aimed at sharing what Coca-Cola as a company does." Adds Venkatesh Kini, vice president, marketing, Coca-Cola India, "We are giving a simple message that we spread joy wherever we go."

The "little drops of joy" campaign is very different in style, tone and content from what McCann usually produces for Coca-Cola. This is the agency, after all, which has all but claimed ownership over the word thanda.

But the current campaign is a lot more serious than thanda matlab, thande ke tadka and more recently, sabka thanda ek. That's probably because it is part of an international corporate campaign, although the execution is specially created for India.

Also, there's also a lot more at stake here than merely increasing sales: the campaign is part of a new growth strategy for Coca-Cola India. The idea behind what company president and CEO Atul Singh terms as a "five-pillar strategy" is to increase connect with stakeholders by focusing on five "P's": people, planet, portfolio, partners and performance.

That includes investing $250 million over the next three years in new bottling capacities, creating new distribution models and marketing. Under the five-pillar programme, the company also plans to launch new products, initiatives to share best practices with partners and employees, and community programmes such as providing drinking water to schools.

If these new ventures are to get off the ground successfully, communication is key. And internal research by the company showed that rather than promote individual products -- which is what Coca-Cola India has been doing since 1993 -- it would be more constructive to emphasise the company and its values.

Feedback studies among stakeholders last year revealed that people who knew the company's track record in India were favourably impressed. Those who weren't aware of Coca-Cola's achievements were most likely to be anti, says Kini.

Besides, Coca-Cola and Pepsi are still mopping up the spills caused by the pesticides controversy last year. The current campaign, with its emphasis on corporate social responsibility, smacks of a rehabilitation exercise, although both the company and agency deny it vehemently.

"The controversy was two years ago. We have grown in double digits in the past year. This campaign is purely to build awareness," says Kini.

Three months ago, Coca-Cola gave McCann its brief: tell people what we have been doing. "We haven't tried to say that we are transforming people's lives, we just want to say that we bring or add to their joy," says, Joshi.

Once the company approved the execution presented by McCann Erickson's Delhi team, Free Fall Films was signed on to produce the TVCs. The films were shot in less than a week at various locations in Mumbai by director Sabyasachi "Zap" Sengupta.

While the television ads aim to achieve an emotional connect, the print advertisements are more direct in spreading the message. The print ads refer to small, but significant steps taken by Coca-Cola India.

Like restoring and rebuilding a 400-year-old well in a Rajasthan village; or employing 80 people from the Benaras Deaf and Dumb Institute as bottle inspectors; or the rainwater harvesting initiative in Hyderabad. "We want to make known the values we stand for as a business," says Kini.

To ensure the message reaches as wide an audience as possible, the campaign is covering all media. "It is aimed at people from all groups and sectors. So we are extensively using all the possible mediums," says Kini.

The two television commercials appear on all major cable channels, including sports, news and general entertainment. Six different executions appear in English newspapers across the country while hoardings in all major cities have been booked.

Coca-Cola is even rebuilding its corporate website to match the campaign -- an important step, since the site gets up to 60,000 hits a day, says Kini.

"Little drops of joy" is a multi-year campaign, scheduled to run for at least two years, and Kini says Coca-Cola will invest in it as much as on any individual brand. Incidentally, the corporate campaign is independent of individual brand campaigns, which will continue undisturbed.

Who Did What

Client: Coca-Cola India
Agency: McCann Erickson
Client Servicing: Debashis P, Ruchi A, Anjani P & Amit A
Creative: Prasoon Joshi, Anirban Sen, Mayur Hola & Tirtha Ghosh

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