May 1, 2008

Vending machine delivers for Coke

To promote the launch of Coke Zero, Coca-Cola Japan went viral via a YouTube campaign showing the exploits of quirky fictional hero Vending Machine Red. The result was a following of tens of thousands of fans. By Anita Davis

Vending machine delivers for Coke

Client Coca-Cola Japan

Project ‘Vending Machine Red’ viral campaign

Brief Generate buzz around Coke Zero’s Japanese launch and increase vending machine traffic and revenue by creating a comedic viral video campaign that would capture the imagination of the key youth market.

People Tag Tokyo: Seiji Shiramizu, creative director; Naoto Nishio, art director; Shiko Murai, art director; Tetsuya Kinouchi, agency producer; Teruhisa Yoshida, producer; Ray Yoshimoto, director; Yutaka Tsuda, account planner; Joe Nakamura, general manager; Hiroki Fujita, account director; Akira Asano, account planner

Duration June to December 2007

Background Last year was a busy one for Coca-Cola Japan. Not only did it celebrate its 50th anniversary, but it also launched an important new product, calorie-free Coke Zero. The drink targets young consumers, and, in particular, young men.

Coca-Cola teamed up with Tag Tokyo, part of McCann-Erickson, to create a viral campaign to launch the product

Aim Coca-Cola needed to retain the interest of Japanese youths to promote Coke Zero. Online was a natural choice given the high rates of online penetration and usage among Japanese consumers. It decided to use online videos that allowed the digital-savvy demographic to follow a story as they would with any other television show. According to a spokeswoman at McCann-Erickson, the campaign’s developers sought to “strengthen the perception that Coca-Cola is a ‘special’ brand’”. The result was a “mysterious and dorky” character that would engage audiences and maximise buzz. Additionally, the company’s marketers decided to take a more creative approach to the promotion by embracing the comedic stereotypes surrounding Japan’s film culture.

Execution The campaign focused on the drinks company’s vending machines, which have been a common sight in the country since 1962. Coca-Cola currently maintains around 980,000 vending machines across the nation.

The company created an action hero called VM (vending machine) Red, whose purpose was to travel Japan thwarting fictional villains. Other characters included VM Coke Zero (a black vending machine) and Silver (not a vending machine at all, but a woman in a helmet). A total of 22 short films were uploaded on YouTube under the account name VMRED over the course of six months. These films were between one and five minutes in length and featured VM Red battling villains or simply taking part in run-of-themill activities, such as shopping or riding the subway, giving the films a quirky edge.

Audiences were encouraged to upload either their own home-made episodes or clips of the robot filmed at live events.

Campaign developers also created an account for VM Red on Japan’s most popular social networking site, Mixi. Red’s profile was updated almost daily with blog articles, movies and pictures for Japanese fans to follow. Creators decided they wanted fans to get involved with Red as a character to foster a relationship, and having the opportunity to befriend him on Mixi and be notified of his latest activities would strengthen the enthusiasm surrounding the character.

Results According to YouTube, each of the 22 films received thousands of views, with the first, 51-second episode attracting more than 122,500 views. Overall, an estimated 5m to 6m people viewed the series, many of whom were avid followers of the films.

In addition to the 22 uploaded episodes from VMRED, 87 films were uploaded by non-professional fans; 4m people helped to advance the viral through participation on Mixi, blogs, ad-card distribution and added links to the campaign’s homepage; and 1m people attended live events involving the characters.


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