Here's a fun way for brands to dole out product samples. As part of its sponsorship of this weekend's NCAA Men's Final Four competition, Coke Zero and Ogilvy & Mather installed a "drinkable billboard" that shoots soda through a massive straw into a public drinking fountain.
The 23,000-pound novelty is in White River State Park in Indianapolis, where the games are taking place. Coke Zero flows through 4,500 feet of straw to spell out "Taste It." Then the liquid travels from the bottom of the billboard to a sampling area with six fountain spouts where people can taste the soda.
Using more than 75 valves, four high-pressure pumps and 16 sensors, the billboard pushes liquid and air through tubes to make it look like a straw is emptying. The billboard runs on enough compressed air to fill all the basketballs used during the March Madness tournament, according to Coke.
Coke's campaign is also the first work to come out of Ogilvy since the agency won the business last year.
Besides the intricate billboard, Coke Zero is also making interactive TV commercials, which will air during Saturday's broadcast of the semifinal games on TBS, and CBS' championship game on Monday.
Using audio recognition, viewers who have downloaded and open the Shazam mobile app while the spot airs will unlock extra content.
Coke's TV spot, which you can watch below, triggers a Shazam ad that shows a glass filling up with Coke. Once the glass is full, the app offers a mobile coupon for a free 20-ounce bottle.
Similar activations are taking place inside Indianapolis's Lucas Oil Stadium and Circle Centre shopping mall this weekend. Mall kiosks and video boards in the stadium also run the commercial that offers downloadable coupons.
While Shazam and similar technology has been around for years, it's been slow to take off with marketers because there isn't a compelling enough reason for people to use the app. In this case, the coupon could be a strong incentive to get sports fans to whip out their smartphones while watching the game.
Coke will also host events in the mall and at a concert in Indianapolis. In one smartphone game projected on a big screen, contestants can race to "drink" a virtual bottle of Coke. To play, they have to blow into the microphones on their phones, which will make the soda disappear through a straw. The first person who finishes wins real soda.