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How Coca-Cola Used Vending Machines To Try And Unite The People Of India And Pakistan

Specially designed Small World Machines placed in both countries in March served as live communications portals. Now, Coke has released a video that allows everyone to witness the joyous interactions.

Relations between India and Pakistan are marked by many things—and happiness is generally not one of them. But Coca-Cola recently brought both nations together—or at least brought citizens of both countries face to face—over vending machines.

No ordinary vending machines, the Small World Machines, created by Coke and Leo Burnett, were equipped with full-length webcams that allowed participants to see each other and interact in real time. "We used special active-shutter 3-D technology that projected a streaming feed onto glass while filming through that glass at the same time," explains Leo Burnett Executive Creative Director Jon Wyville. "This allowed people to make direct eye contact and touch hands." The touch-facilitating machines are the latest creative usage of beverage dispensers engineered by Coke. In the past, the beverage maker has employed them for smaller-scale happiness-inducing gestures, such as delivering unexpected treats to college students.

The high-tech Small World Machines, built by The SuperGroup, a digital agency in Atlanta, were placed in malls—one in Lahore, Pakistan, the other in New Delhi, India—in March. Jackie Jantos Tulloch, Coke’s global creative director, was on the New Delhi side when the machines were activated for the first time. "When the machines came on, there was just this really powerful energy—laughter, smiles, cheers," Jantos Tulloch says. "People were waving frantically to each other because the idea of this type of seamless, live interaction is so unusual."

One man in particular stood out to Jantos Tulloch. "There is an older man in the video. He’s dancing and spinning in a circle. That moment was an incredibly short cut of what was about three minutes of him dancing. He walked away, and he was breathing so heavily. There were so many moments like that that were so surprising and so energetic and so emotional," she says. "Being a part of it was really awe-inspiring."

In addition to seeing each other, participants also used a touch-screen interface to trace peace signs and smiley faces with their counterparts across the border. When they finished working together to perform those tasks, hands touching (at least virtually) throughout the experience, the machine dispensed a free can of Coke to reward them for their efforts.

Coke gave out 10,000 cans of soda during the campaign, which is part of the brand’s larger mission to associate its product with happiness. "Coke has always been a brand that’s about positivity and optimism, and we’re always talking about how we can provoke just a little bit more happiness in the world. And increasingly, we’ve tried to create experiences to actually bring people together in intimate moments of connectivity," Jantos Tulloch says. "Telling this story through the lens of India and Pakistan really came from our team on the ground there who knows better than anyone that the people really want more positive connection and more positive communication between them."

Through Small World Machines, Coca-Cola is redefining what it means to be a global brand, according to Leo Burnett Executive Creative Director Dave Loew. "It’s not just about size and scale and being everywhere," Loew says. "It’s about being on the ground, making a positive difference in people’s lives."

Is it possible that Coke’s Small World Machines might pop up in other areas of conflict around the globe? "We think it’s a really universal piece of communication, so, of course, we would love to activate it again," Jantos Tulloch says, "and we’re looking into where and how we can do that in the future."

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  • PK Bang

    Coca-Cola hired terrorist factions in Columbia to kill union organisers at their factories there.

  • Stephan Fuetterer

    Dear Christine,
    This is a really hearthtouching initiative. However I think it is important to point out that the goal of initiatives like this is not "to try to unite the people of India and Pakistan" as stated on the title, or whatever. The real goal is to keep people like you and me talking about Coca Cola and spread the word about this brand. Doing "nice things" is a medium, not an objective itself. We shouldn´t forget this. Perhaps I am unromantic or it can also be that I've been working too many years in the field of PR :^\
    Congratulations for the article.

    Stephan Fuetterer, from Madrid, Spain

  • nn180

    What does the reason matter if they're doing good works? When a corporation donates millions toward a charity for the tax write-off and the exposure, is it any less good for those the charity targets to serve?

  • rwordplay

    A brilliant idea that actually moved me. A truly global concept as so much hatred is felt between peoples who are neighbors and who share many cultural traits, habits and perceptions which are clouded by ideologies and falsehoods.

  • Brand.gineering

    Advertising agencies desperately searching for ideas to make up for many, many years of failing their clients? One bright spot in a dying industry. Goodbye advertising. One good idea does not make up for years of poor performance.

  • Revdoc

    I think this is the best idea I have ever seen in my 60+ years from any corporation. Kudos to Coke! Keep it going, make it bigger - EVERYWHERE!!

  • manateejax

    So not only does Coca Cola teach the world to sing, they try to bring them together for the song! Love it when technology can be used this way. Sorry Mr. Painter but I have to disagree - as long as you are selling a product anyway, why not serve up some humanity in the process?

  • Alec Painter

    A decades-long conflict that has claimed the lives of thousands? Sounds like a great marketing opportunity!
    I don't know if this is the worst cultural exploitation I've seen in marketing, but it's in the top five. 

    This will do nothing to heal Indo-Pakistani relations, but hot damn, it might sell some cola. 

    Pat yourself on the back, advertising industry. You've cranked out another hit. 

  • Carolinepercy01

    You say it does nothing? 

    Well, It's done ALOT. 

    Coke with this initiative has now made me and my young friends aware of this conflict...And making young people aware and talking is a START.

    remember they HAVE to sell their product to survive and at least they are using their marketing dollars to promote a social purpose versus other brands who are not..If that's exploitation, I'll take it! :)

  • Jenn Ashe

    This article was so refreshing to read. There are so many articles that condemn technology for dehumanizing society and breaking down personal communication. I love that coca-cola used what is essentially a very simple concept (web-cam) to bring people together, despite the age-old conflict between them. 

  • Mehdi Siddiqui

    Very Nice Story infact; I believe it's a great effort of COKE to make connections of people of Two borders countries. Wish you all the best people of INDIA and PAKISTAN and thank you very much to COKE also.

  • Revdoc

    Wonderful idea. The Iranians I know in the USA are wonderful people. Our government is what is bad.

  • Devrajray1986

    Cool story - just a shame that you've misspelled our capital city as "New Dehli" twice - it's Delhi!