COKE'S 'HAPPINESS MACHINE'
The students at St. John's University in Queens, N.Y., drink a lot of Coke. But this past January, feeding a buck into the cafeteria vending machine produced a lot more than a bottle of soda.
In terms of execution, Coke's "Happiness Machine" was textbook guerrilla marketing. Agency Definition 6 installed a specially rigged vending machine over a holiday when nobody was around. The machine's back connected to a storeroom big enough for the people and props necessary for the stunt. Meanwhile, techies set up tiny video cameras around the room to capture the responses. "It looked like an ordinary machine," relates Coke's senior manager of marketing A.J. Brustein. "Nobody suspected anything."
Not at first, anyway. Students who fed dollars into the machine initially walked away with ordinary Cokes. But the next bill drops produced more than the kids bargained for, including a bouquet of sunflowers, a doggie balloon and even a piping-hot pepperoni pizza. The response was much as you'd expect: nervous laughter, screams, gaping stares, then a crowd. The Web cams caught it all—then routed the footage onto YouTube. To date, the video has racked up 2.8 million hits.
Actually, the impact was bigger than that. Coke also used the YouTube video as a 30-second TV spot, which ran in the U.S. and overseas. Total media impressions hit 200 million. Not a bad ROI for the cost of a vending machine and some props. "We had a limited budget and a limited amount of time," Brustein says. "We were very happy with the results."
Agency: Definition 6
Objective: Build online following for Coke with the teen demographic with a hoax and a Web video to follow
Payoff: 2.8 million hits on YouTube; 200 million media impressions overall
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