Super Bowl Ad Watch: Crowdsourcing Peaks with Coke’s ‘Mirage’ Campaign

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Coca-Cola is taking the crowdsourcing bent of Super Bowl advertising to the next level with its just-announced “Mirage” campaign for Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, with a story arc that will rely on social media input from viewers to determine the ending.

The brand’s effort also promises a great in-game marketing battle with Pepsi, which is sponsoring the halftime show. And just for good measure, Coke also will be repeating its anti-obesity ad on Super Bowl Sunday.

Coke previewed creative and discussed its strategy for the Super Bowl on Tuesday with journalists and bloggers, as marketing executives vowed that the brand’s socially-focused effort would surpass the success of last year’s “Polar Bears” campaign. In it, viewers collectively dictated the animated bears’ responses to game action and even to other brands’ commercials.[more]

“Mirage” tells the story of three bands of desert vagabonds — cowboys, showgirls and the Mad Max-inspired “Badlanders” — who each pursue the same mirage: a giant Coke bottle. Super Bowl viewers who visit various social media platforms will dictate collectively which of the three groups wins the race to the bottle, and fans visiting CokeChase.com can maneuver various “sabotages” into the way of the contenders they would like to see defeated.

“This year we [wanted to] up the fun factor and get more meaningful social engagement,” Pio Schunker, senior vice president of integrated marketing communications for Coca-Cola North America, said on the webcast. “We’re much broader and deeper across social platforms with content that’s been developed specifically for those social media channels, and optimized for them.”

Along the way, participants in the “Mirage” story will see “Doc Pemberton,” an homage to Coke’s founder, providing commentary on the race on Twitter. Domino’s Pizza, a Coke partner, makes a cameo appearance with the bus of showgirls. And just after the end of the Super Bowl, Coca-Cola will run an ad revealing the winner among its three groups.

Coke begins the campaign Wednesday with a 30-second teaser ad on American Idol and other big TV properties, and a YouTube “takeover” that encourages fans to engage early in “Mirage” by offering “bios” and photos of the groups on CokeChase.com. The brand is aiming to engage retailers in marketing activities as well.

Though nine million people followed the Polar Bears’ antics through the 2012 Super Bowl, Schunker said Coke made a big mistake by not capitalizing on the ads’ success immediately afterward. “Nine million people showed up and we forgot to have a conversation even thanking them,” he said. “This year, we plan to rectify that.”

Schunker said that Coke “chose to walk away from [the story] to avoid the trap door of doing a sequel.” Also, he said, brand stewards determined that, unlike last year, they wanted the Super Bowl XLVI campaign and execution “to set up the entire 2013 platform for the brand: Coke as the ultimate thirst quencher.”

Other brands are deploying crowdsourcing efforts for the Super Bowl as well. They include highly publicized efforts by Doritos, with the return of its “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign; Audi, which is releasing three versions of its Super Bowl spot and letting fans vote on the ending they want to see in the final spot; and Lincoln, which is coming into the Big Game with an important brand repositioning campaign based in large part by harnessing ideas pitched by comic Jimmy Fallon’s Twitter followers.

During pre-game programming on CBS, Coke also plans to re-run the “Be OK” ad about obesity, activity and moderation it debuted earlier this month. Stuart Kronauge, general manager of sparkling beverages for Coke North America, said Tuesday that the ad is about “the power of making an informed choice.”

“Running ‘Be OK’ isn’t mutually exclusive” with a fun campaign such as “Mirage” in the Super Bowl environment, Kronauge said. “You can take on an issue and [show ‘Mirage’] at the same time.”

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