To inform the development of our Ogilvy Entertainment Assessment Model™ (Ogilvy BEAM™), OgilvyEntertainment reached out to key industry leaders for inspiration and insight. As part of the roundtable series, we had the pleasure of interviewing a true innovator in the branded entertainment space: Jonathan Mildenhall, Vice President of Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence at the Coca-Cola Company. In our Q&A below, Jonathan shares the success story of Coke Zero’s “A Step From Zero” campaign (created by Ogilvy Paris and the Coca-Cola Company) and discusses the company’s branded entertainment strategy. Following this interview, the Coke Zero campaign won two awards in the branded entertainment category at the 2012 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
OgilvyEntertainment: What is your biggest branded entertainment success at The Coca-Cola Company to date?
Jonathan Mildenhall: In recent years the Coca-Cola Company has innovated in the branded entertainment space in a variety of ways—including our transmedia approach for the “Happiness Factory” property, taking people inside the fantastical world of a Coke vending machine; the FIFA 2010 World Cup campaign, which included a documentary about the history of football celebrations; and our partnership with world renowned DJ and Producer, David Guetta, to create a film about the story of his life and career. Each is a different approach with successes and learnings that are helping us break new ground in this space. Most recently, we embarked on a social experiment for our Coke Zero brand to further explore how much potential exists in this model.
In August 2011, Coke Zero partnered with filmmaker and creator of the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, Jon Chu, and launched a global social media audition with the intent of sparking a conversation that would lead to the creation of branded content. Sharing the belief that anyone can make it possible, Coke Zero and Jon Chu’s open casting call was aimed at crafting the next global dance move. The experience began online inside and out of our branded digital platforms, inviting our consumers into the experience to view, participate and converse.
We received hundreds of original dance moves from amazingly creative people all around the world – all of whom were encouraged along the way by personal video messages from the LXD. After over 500 uploads and many thousands of online conversations, we found someone with a tale of possibility within the world of dance that just had to be told. His name is Knucklehead and his story really inspired us. Knucklehead created a dance that anyone could learn: The Toe Tappy. Coke Zero then helped Knucklehead on his journey to take the Toe Tappy to the world by seeding, igniting and spreading the conversation through YouTube, Facebook & Twitter. And it took off!
The global conversation inspired the creation of a music video, a TV commercial inspired by Knucklehead’s life, and a dance tutorial.
OgilvyEntertainment: What was the brief for this work?
Jonathan Mildenhall: We wanted to allow consumers to discover Coke Zero in a new and surprising way – through conversation with likeminded people who share the belief that action drives possibility.
Most conversations between a brand and its consumers begin with a piece of content. This experiment flipped the model on its head – by sparking a conversation (in this case on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter), which defines the script for our branded content.
First, we asked the community to help us find the next hype global dance move. Then we asked for the best interpretation of that move – an open casting call to star in the next global ad campaign for Coke Zero – all in an effort to find an authentic story of possibility.
OgilvyEntertainment: Why was branded entertainment even considered?
Jonathan Mildenhall: This all comes down to the Coca-Cola Company’s liquid and linked approach to communication. The Coca-Cola Company believes in creating ideas that are so contagious that they cannot be controlled – we call this liquid. And these ideas are so innately relevant to our business objectives, our brands, and consumer interests – we call this linked. Through the stories we tell, we aim to provoke conversations and earn a disproportionate share of popular culture. The conversation model we have developed begins with brand stories. These stories create liquid and linked ideas that provoke conversation. We then need to act and react to these conversation 365 days a year.
The Coca-Cola Company’s 70/20/10 investment model also determines what type of content we invest in. This formula allocates 70 percent of content development and investment to low risk, bread and butter, pays-the-rent content. We then invest 20 percent to innovate off what works within that 70 percent and engage more deeply with a more specific audience but still with a broad scale. Finally, we commit 10 percent to high-risk content where we test brand new ideas that will eventually produce tomorrow’s 20 or 70.
OgilvyEntertainment: What metrics were captured and evaluated? Beyond impressions, what do you measure?
Jonathan Mildenhall: We captured familiar quantitative metrics (such as views, visits, impressions and expressions) as well as qualitative data that reflected the positive sentiment and changes in brand perception gleaned from the global conversation.
Expressions, specifically organic expressions, (such as likes, comments, shares, and tweets) from consumers in the community were our most watched metric. Expressions are another word for conversations (for example, any form of participation on a public forum) and that was our vision for this experiment.
OgilvyEntertainment: How do you consider the work a success?
Jonathan Mildenhall: The work was a success in various ways:
- The levels of engagement in the community were above average. The time spent per visit leveled off at 6:40 after peaking well over 9 minutes during the height of the conversation.
- We received an amazing amount of user-generated content: over 500 videos from over 35 countries, each averaging over 150 expressions.
Social listening confirms that our brand agenda to “make it possible” resonated strongly within the community, and within our most targeted consumer groups. We have received thousands of positive responses from youth audience like “it’s great”, “amazing”, “toe tappy is so cool”, “you have inspired me to dance”.
Most importantly, we found an authentic, powerful story of possibility from the community of individuals. This story became the basis for our branded entertainment content. The stories we collected were so inspiring that we ended up doing more than initially anticipated.
OgilvyEntertainment: What are the biggest barriers to doing more branded entertainment work?
Jonathan Mildenhall: The Coca-Cola Company system sees incredible value investing in stories that spread, generating value for the brand and our consumers. Traditional media like TV have performed for decades and evolving to a branded entertainment model doesn’t happen overnight. To remain successful in this transition requires nimble execution, specialized skills in social disciplines, and most importantly the fortitude to innovate and take risks. We’ve incubated our internal capabilities with every attempt at producing memorable branded entertainment content, and spread those learnings throughout the global system.
OgilvyEntertainment: What have you learned from previous branded entertainment work?
Jonathan Mildenhall: We’ve learned that our most creative and surprising work is rooted in insights but also authentic conversation from consumers. And nothing fuels a great conversation like personalized and timely communication between the brand and its consumers, aka dynamic storytelling.
We need to move from one-way storytelling to dynamic storytelling.
What is the definition of dynamic storytelling? It’s the development of incremental elements of brand ideas that get dispersed systematically across multiple channels of conversation for the purposes of creating a unified and coordinated brand experience.
The role of content excellence is to behave like a ruthless editor otherwise we will risk just creating noise. We must remember that storytelling is at the heart of every family, community, and culture. And it is something that the Coca-Cola Company has excelled at for the past 125 years.
You must make the experience tangible and meaningful. But that conversation is easily broken. Brands must commit to the community and nurture it every day. Brands must treat the content creation model as a platform built to live, not a campaign built with an end date.
OgilvyEntertainment: How is the Coca-Cola Company trying to track and/or value earned media today? What kind of metrics do you use?
Jonathan Mildenhall: Fan growth, likes, comments, sharing on Facebook and YouTube are standard metrics we track, as are followers, re-tweets and mentions on Twitter. Going beyond individual metrics, we measure earned media through a suite of listening tracking tools, including Sysomos and NetBase, which help us gauge where, when and how our messaging is resonating across millions of snippets of online conversations. Also, since we aim to earn a disproportionate share of popular culture, we also look at the earned media generated through traditional media sources as well – newpapers, magazines, TV, and radio shows – where our conversation gets carried forward offline.
The reality is that we have access to a wealth of data at our fingertips. The biggest challenge is to make this data ‘talk’.
OgilvyEntertainment: What would motivate you to invest more in branded entertainment? What type of return on investment assurances would you need to justify this shift?
Jonathan Mildenhall: Continued success in delighting our consumers in more creative and engaging ways would be motivating – making them so delighted, in fact, that we provoke a groundswell of conversation massive enough to penetrate pop culture. Ultimately, brand love comes from forming relationships through conversation.
Check out Coke Zero’s “A Step from Zero” video (1.7+ million views) and the “Do that Toe Tappy” video (3.7+ million views) here:
OgilvyEntertainment’s Ogilvy Branded Entertainment Assessment Model™ is available for download on SlideShare here:
View the Ogilvy Paris and Coke Zero branded entertainment case study video here: