Coke Zero is out to create an international dance craze—and remake its marketing process—via the "Make It Possible Project," a campaign that came together organically over the course of several months with input from Coke fans around the world.
Eschewing the traditional advertising model, the brand instead used its MakeItPossibleProject.com storytelling platform to experiment with content creation relying on public participation: “Consumers can see through these marketing platforms, so why not genuinely bring them into the process so they’re part of the marketing community?” says Jonathan Mildenhall, VP of Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence at Coca-Cola, stressing, “I view every single [member] of our community as a marketing director for the Coke Zero brand.”
This worldwide network of marketing directors got to work late last summer on a campaign orchestrated by Coke agency Ogilvy Paris. The project kicked off when director Jon M. Chu, creator of The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers web series, went online at Coke Zero’s behest to announce that the soft drink was on the lookout for a hot new original dance (Mildenhall was actually inspired to make dance the central theme of the project after a chance meeting with Chu at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last year).
Choreographers and dancers of all experience levels were invited to upload videos to MakeItPossibleProject.com showing off their best moves, and as the submissions came in from around the world, Chu as well as members of The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers provided encouragement through video messages. Meanwhile, the Make It Possible Project community liked, shared, and debated the merits of the dances. In the end, it was the Toe Tappy, a side-to-side toe-tapping dance created by American street dancer Joey “Knucklehead” Turman that won Coke Zero’s interest.
Convinced that the Toe Tappy had the potential to catch on, Coke Zero then initiated a casting call, reaching out to its online community in search of a performer who could bring the dance to life as the star of a global ad campaign. Again, anyone could apply. “At every stage of the creative development process, we were helping members of our target audience realize their ‘what’s possible,’” Mildenhall says, noting that a group of finalists from the community were flown to Los Angeles, where they were photographed for an out-of-home campaign—think everything from posters to in-store displays—and provided with behind-the-scenes video to share through their social networks.
Keemo, an actor and dancer from France, ultimately became the face of the campaign, winning the lead role in “A Step from Zero,” a web film that broke today on Coke Zero’s YouTube channel. Directed by Nima Nourizadeh out of production company Partizan in Buenos Aires (Coke also worked with Stink Digital for interactive components and Opus 88 on out of home) and featuring a track titled “I’m All In” by up-and-coming rapper Metis, the film casts Keemo playing a young man whose family doesn’t support his ambition of becoming a professional dancer. He eventually wins their approval after he creates a dance—the Toe Tappy—that spreads all over the world thanks to the Internet. (The web film was also cut into 60- and 30-second commercials.)
The narrative is loosely based on Knucklehead’s personal story, which is shared in more detail on the Make It Possible Project site through a short documentary-style film. It provides a raw portrait of a young man who survives a rough childhood and makes his way to a better life through dance. Knucklehead, who, incidentally, competed on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew with Street Kingdom, is also featured on the site in a series of videos that show him traveling the world, from Japan to New Zealand, teaching people the Toe Tappy, and he also got people buzzing about his dance via social media. (People can follow the conversation at #zerodance or #toetappy.)
The young influencers who make up the Make It Possible Project community have shown great interest in the aforementioned content. In fact, according to data culled from the site, visitors spent an average of six minutes on MakeItPossibleProject.com during the content creation portion of the campaign, with peaks running as high as nine minutes.
Given the success of the endeavor in terms of engagement, Coke Zero is now looking to take consumers on additional creative journeys via the Make It Possible Project, giving them an opportunity to pursue their own passions and play a role in shaping and sharing the marketing messages aimed at them. “You can rest assured that the next tale of possibility will have a ringleader like Jon Chu, we’ll activate the community, we’ll source authenticity from a community of believers as we go through the process, and hopefully, we’ll realize the dreams of several people,” Mildenhall says.
The approach confirms Coca-Cola’s commitment to its Content 2020 manifesto, which outlined a long-term, company-wide marketing plan that is less reliant on traditional advertising and more invested in generating content that can flow through any medium while reinforcing the company’s business objectives.
“For Coke Zero, I never want to go back to a traditional hidden creative development process,” Mildenhall says. “I always want to engage with the community in helping us find the talent and find the stories and find the creative elements. It’s just so much more rewarding.”