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.”