From SXSW Interactive -
After the torrential rain finally cleared up in Austin, I decided to venture across the street from the convention center towards Google Village and take in a few talks on what’s new from the “Big G”. To my surprise, the village is literally a full residential block with houses devoted to Google products — from hearing about the latest from Google Maps to hacking Android devices.
I made my way over to the “Discovery” House featuring Google’s Project Re: Brief (http://www.projectrebrief.com/coke) experiment, which is an attempt to refresh some of the most iconic ad platforms known to mankind. By adding all the bells & whistles of what digital provides, these classic marketing platforms become new again. Yet, the real litmus test is whether the addition of digital really enhances or weakens the impact of the original campaign.
Case-in-point is Coca-Cola’s “Hilltop” spot from 1971, featuring a chorus of young people from around the world singing, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”. Keep in mind that this is during the time of the Vietnam War and the growing peace movement pervading the younger generations. Needless to say, it was an enormously successful and memorable campaign. Will it resonate with today’s connected generation? Does the notion of “buying the world a Coke” actually deliver the same gesture of bringing the world closer today?
Well, Google met up with Harvey Gabor, the original art-director that created the spot, and brainstormed ways to bring the idea of buying a complete stranger a Coke a reality. While keeping the original soundtrack of the chorus intact, the song transforms into a call-to-action to invite the viewer to send a personal message to any connected Coca-Cola vending machine across the earth. On the other end, a person receives the message and gets a free Coke. Voilà!
I admit, I love seeing interesting ways to connect the digital with the physical world. Yet from a marketing sense, this execution quickly becomes a shiny object that falls flat because it allows technology to overshadow the emotional impact of the original message. Consider the gravitas of the 1971 campaign, one that delivered a message of hope and peace in a time of war. The 2012 edition simply shoots out a can of Coke to a stranger on the other side of the world and says, “Enjoy!”
If “buying the world a Coke” were tied to addressing a relevant issue happening in context of today, then perhaps the message would have become more balanced and delivered real impact. I do commend Google on taking on these challenges with Project Re: Brief – one that is quite daunting since these campaigns sit of the top of the heap of advertising history. Yet the attempt at making Coca-Cola’s “Hilltop” concept contemporary sadly does not outshine the original.
Derek Scott, Group Creative Director