What Coke's New Campaign Says About the Future of Advertising

This week, Coca-Cola released a new campaign, “This is AHH.” In a first for the brand, the spots are solely comprised of user-generated content.

Produced by Wieden + Kennedy, the campaign is a product of a contest that was announced months ago asking teens to submit videos that show what it feels like when they take a sip of Coke. While 400 videos were received, only 40 are featured in the final ad, coming from as far afield as Brazil and as close to home as Salt Lake City. The most compelling clips are featured in this national TV campaign that debuted on during season finale of American Idol and will run on the CW, MTV, Adult Swim, and other teen-friendly networks.

Creating ads from footage take by consumers is not a new idea. Go Pro, for example, relies almost solely on its users’ videos for its advertising efforts.

But Coke’s reliance on user-generated content for a television campaign targeted at teens seems to signal a lot about this younger generation and what brands will have to do to engage it in the future.

The spot is part of Coca Cola’s campaign, “The AHH Effect,” which is now in its second year. More than 60 sites were created for the campaign, with many of them being created specifically for mobile use. Many of the sites featured games, encouraging these teens to physically interact with the brand.

Interactivity is extremely important for younger audiences. They are a group that isn’t satisfied with just being told a story, but want to help tell the story, affect the brand, and, in this case, literally see themselves in that brand’s story.

It makes sense that teens would be attracted to advertising like this. Most kids in middle school or high school don’t remember a time before YouTube or Facebook existed. And even Facebook is too old-school for this group. They spend most of their time on mobile apps, like Snapchat. They are used to interacting with their media, controlling it, and, in some cases, creating it.

The future of advertising -- where these teens are the most coveted market -- will still be all about engagement. But while video today is about engaging emotions, brands will have to start thinking about how they engage viewers not only emotionally, but also through action and interaction.

Coca-Cola has always been open to letting consumers interact with its brand. Even early in the days of social media, when brands were just figuring out how to use Facebook, Coca-Cola wouldn’t censor its fans’ posts. But most other brands have been afraid to let consumers contribute to their brand story.

It’s time for companies to empowering consumers to interact with and shape their brands. Start now, because in the future of advertising, there will be less and less of a barrier between the creator and the viewer.

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