Coke to open happiness in India

By Abhishek Chanda , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | February 27, 2009
After the US market, The Coca-Cola Company has identified India as the next destination, where it will roll out the global campaign

The Coca-Cola Company, building on the Coke Side of Life campaign, had rolled out its next global integrated marketing campaign, Open Happiness in late January 2009, in the United States of America. Following this, it has now decided to roll out the campaign in India. The sub-continent will be among the first few strategic markets for the campaign.

The film, titled Dost, features Indian cricketer, Gautam Gambhir, who has recently been signed as one of the brand ambassadors for Coke, apart from Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan. The company has also associated itself with two IPL teams, Delhi Daredevils for Coke and Kolkata Knight Riders for Sprite.

& #BANNER1 & #The film went on air on Indian television during the telecast of the Oscars.

It has been created by McCann Erickson Delhi, where it was conceptualised by Nakul Sharma, creative team leader - copy and Tirtha Ghosh, creative director - art, under the supervision of Ashish Chakravarty, executive creative director, McCann Erickson Delhi. In servicing, Amit Ahluwalia, Amita Gupta and Arjun Purkayastha were responsible for the duties. It has been directed by Dibakar Bannerjee (of Khosla Ka Ghosla fame) and produced by Freshwater Films. Madison handles the media duties for the brand.

The film is set in a proverbial neighbourhood shop - Milne Ka Adda (hangout place) - the place where people once used to get together to support their favourite cricket teams, but which has now lost its attraction. What follows is how Gautam Gambhir, with the help of cricket and Coke, gets strangers from all walks of life together, to experience the joy of coming together and sharing their happiness. The shop is soon full of people cheering for their favourite cricket team, while drinking Coke. The film ends with the thought, Coke Ke Saath Dost Free (with Coca-Cola, get a friend free).

Open Happiness as a global concept

Conceived by Wieden + Kennedy, Coke's global agency since 2006, Open Happiness has been launched globally as an evolution of the Coke Side of Life (CSOL) campaign. When CSOL was introduced globally around early 2006, it led to some award-winning campaigns, such as Video Game, Happiness Factory and It's Mine.

While CSOL stemmed from the simple idea that drinking Coke makes people happy, the new line of thought invites people around the world to 'Open Happiness' and continue to enjoy one of life's simple pleasures - a bottle of Coke.

With Open Happiness, the brand has launched globally some interesting commercials, such as Library, Heist and Crave. The fully integrated campaign - including new points of sale, promotions, outdoor and print advertising, with digital and music components - will roll out throughout the first half of 2009 in markets around the world.

"Central to Open Happiness is the simple notion of enjoying an ice-cold Coca-Cola and taking a small break from the day to connect with others," says Katie Bayne, chief marketing officer, Coca-Cola North America, in an official statement. "With this new campaign, that's exactly what we're inviting people to do more often - open a Coke and share a little happiness."

Music will also play a central role in the new campaign, beginning with a new music track featured in one of the ads that will be released as a single. The music is a collaboration, featuring the talents of Gnarls Barkley's Cee-Lo, Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy, Brendon Urie from Panic at the Disco, Travis McCoy from Gym Class Heroes and Grammy-nominated Janelle Monae. It is produced by Polow Da Don and Butch Walker.

The Indian Chapter

Though CSOL never saw the light of day in India, The Coca-Cola Company was quick to identify the sub-continent as one of the key markets to roll out the Open Happiness campaign, immediately after the global launch.

Kashmira Chadha, director, Marketing, Coca-Cola India, reasons, "The brand concept is beyond any numerical analysis and the results thereafter. It's a natural progression from where Coke as a brand was to what it will be."

Coke advertising in India has spanned various slogans, such as Jo Chaho Ho Jaye and Life Ho Toh Aisi, followed by the popular Thanda Matlab Coca-Cola; then came Thande ka Tadka, the sombre Piyo Sar Utha Ke, and the most recent, Jashn Mana Le, which featured Hrithik Roshan as a mysterious stranger. The brand also had a Diwali film in 2008, titled Jungle Boy, on the Jashn Mana Le thought.

As far as the overall Coca-Cola corporate brand thought - for all brands including Sprite, Thums Up, Fanta, Limca, Maaza and Kinley - is concerned, Little Drops of Joy, launched in August 2007, holds fort. However, brand Coke specifically will use the Open Happiness thought from now on in India.

Chadha explains that a typical Kinley, Sprite or Fanta ad ends with a super of Little Drops of Joy; while Coke ads used to end with the tag-line, Jashn Mana Le and then a Little Drops of Joy super. Among all these brands, only Coke will now end with a super that says Open Happiness, while the rest will continue as before. Little Drops of Joy will continue speaking to consumers, bottlers and the community as a whole, building awareness about the brand, as a corporate brand thought.

According to her, Open Happiness is all about positivity, togetherness and connectivity. "Open, share and enjoy a bottle of Coke - that is the concept in a nutshell," says Chadha.

When asked about the choice of cricket to launch the important concept in India, Chadha states, "Cricket has a huge following and is best enjoyed in groups. One gets the chance to share and connect while enjoying the game, and what better than to have a Coke while doing so. This helps drive home the message that we have on offer."

The integrated campaign is being rolled out across India, using TV, print, on-ground and in-store communication, among others.

The creative thought

The film is a simple and happy portrayal of having fun and enjoying life with a bottle of Coke. However, the creative brains at McCann maintain that the film was originally meant to be a cricket film, which coincidentally, fit into the Open Happiness brand thought.

Ashish Chakravarty, executive creative director, McCann Erickson, Delhi says, "The world today, on the face of it, is connected, be it through SMS, chats or social networking sites. But if one digs deeper, as individuals, we are, perhaps, getting very disconnected. The proof of this is if you look at hangout places or Addas. They are not as popular as they used to be. This is the creative thought. Just like cricket, Coca-Cola also has the power to bring perfect strangers together and make them 'Dosts'."

Says, Nakul Sharma, creative team leader - copy, "Besides Bollywood, cricket cuts across in India. Again, the game, apart from being watched at home, can also be enjoyed in cafés, pubs or common hangouts. This is where the film begins - in a Milne Ka Adda."

He adds that even with the difficulties and stresses of modern-day life, there still exist opportunities, everyday, when we can pause, refresh and connect with each other. "As far as the idea of Dost (friend) goes, we hit upon it after a number of permutations and combinations. After all, the concept of friend is anyday warm and interesting," he says.

When asked why Gambhir was chosen as the face for this communication over the other high-profile celebrity endorsers, Sharma maintains that the fact that Gambhir isn't a high-profile celebrity as of now, helps the creative idea and the portrayal of a next-door friend. "We did not want a star to overwhelm the idea and the simplicity of the thought. Also, the choice of celebrities depends on the script more than anything," he adds.

Any Dosts in planning?

Open Happiness as a concept and Dost as a film have certainly found some friends in the planning fraternity. Sharing his thoughts on the film, Rohit Srivastava, executive vice-president - planning, Contract Advertising says that he finds the insight quite real and refreshing in the world of cola advertising, which has been about a lot of hyperbole.

"It's also well timed. Small doses of happiness, I assume, would be a welcome intrusion in the world of slowdowns, lay-offs, salary cuts and all the rest of the gloom that the media is suddenly so full of," he says.

He finds a new dimension in the execution because of the energy of the commercial, heightened by the soundtrack. However, he feels that though the film has introduced the thought of 'friends', it reminds him of the old "Food, friends and Thums Up" campaign. He concludes, "Having said that, it's a well made commercial with the right amount of pace."

Where is Aamir?

This is one question that was asked by all the creative people afaqs! spoke to regarding this particular campaign. It seems everybody is still smitten by Aamir's charm and versatility.

Says, Satbir Singh, chief creative officer, Euro RSCG, "While he's amongst the top batsmen internationally, Gautam Gambhir's acting is more wooden than his bat. That's perhaps one reason why not many brands have signed him on, despite his performance."

Though he finds the script interesting, he still wants "a livelier dost. Imagine Aamir. The magic's missing," he says.

Vishnu Srivatsav, senior creative director, Grey - south, also likes the TVC and the execution. "I like it, because it's relevant to today's world. The execution has also captured it nicely, building the suspense and delivering an unexpected ending. I also like the Open Happiness platform, because it's an interesting juxtaposition to Pepsi's more irreverent and aggressive Youngistaan. This is more inclusive and relaxed," he says.

However, he finds Gambhir to be a misfit. According to him, it is a departure from how Coke has handled Aamir Khan in the past.