Vogel is a singer and songwriter from the UK tapped by Coca-Cola to debut globally in a YouTube reality show called "Green Eyed World" (www.youtube.com/greeneyedworld). The program also debuts a new kind of content marriage between Facebook and YouTube.
The 52-week program, via FullSIX Group and its Brooklyn, N.Y. division, tracks Vogel's life, relationships and her music career as she hits the Big Apple to try her luck -- with help from the beverage giant. Tapped after a London audition series, Vogel will appear in a weekly five-minute episode. There are five monthly "seasons" slated for April, June, August, October and December, with Vogel doing video blogs and other social media in the months between.
The deal between YouTube and Facebook allows viewers to engage in live dialogue with Vogel when possible, and with each other from within the live YouTube video window itself and on Facebook. Stafford Green, head of digital for Coca-Cola Europe, says the customization is new to the two social media platforms. The dialoging takes place within a green (un-branded) "hot button" on top of the video. If one clicks the hot button without being signed into Facebook, a pop-up window allows a sign-in directly from the YouTube screen. One can also interact with the program from an iPod Touch or iPhone.
The effort is supported by a range of marketing campaigns, including outdoor and indoor ads and special packaging in different countries, live events, artist showcases in New York and the UK, promotional merchandising and potential broadcast.
Green says the program started in Europe and went global from there, as did Coca-Cola Europe's Coke Zero game, an interactive video that lets viewers push soccer balls through hoops. He adds that the current pre-launch video on "Green Eyed World" was introduced with no media spend, and with buzz generated from participants' own contact lists. "Katie has a couple of thousand fans," he says. "I have my contacts, and Damon [Crepin-Burr, group creative director at FullSIX] has his."
He says the company's research prior to the launch suggested that doing a big initial media launch would backfire. "A 'big bang' launch doesn't make it credible and you get spike in interest that dies down. We want good organic growth." He said the strategy worked because there were initial glitches. "In the first days, the number of views was stuck at 314. The counter was wrong."
That initial episode -- "Episode Zero," as Green calls the currently running pre-launch -- introduces Vogel and shows her saying goodbye to her parents as she prepares to leave for New York to pursue music. But the boyfriend, who shows up late to the goodbye dinner at Vogel's home, is really an actor, and the ensuing scene of tears and recrimination as he tries to convince her not to go is actually a re-enactment. "But Katie's tears were real," says Green.
"A 'reality remix' is the closest thing we can figure out to call it," says Green. "It's a little like 'The Truman Show,' as we wanted to put in actors to spice things up a bit, but we are finding the more credible we can make it without actors and actresses, the better it is."
The work-in-progress applies to Sprite marketing as well since Green wants to keep branding sub rosa. "As you can predict, I've had interesting conversations in the company as most traditional brand managers want to put the Sprite name over everything and have [Vogel] drinking Sprite. But what we have learned is that that kind of branding will alienate viewers.
"Where Sprite can have a role to play in the story we will do it; if there isn't a role we won't. The actual story itself is closer to the brand ideal of Sprite, which is around choices in life, that the choices you make are genuine and real. That makes sense, but we are not pushing a big tag line."
Sprite brand managers across Europe are looking at the program, with Denmark mulling "Katie" billboards and Coca-Cola's Eastern Europe division considering cans with her picture.
As for the media buy and the YouTube partnership with Facebook, Green says it was possible because he could ensure a strong media buy throughout the year. "The media budget for YouTube and [owner] Google has been centralized out of a single European budget," he says, adding that the company is considering television. "It's an idea we had from the very beginning because we wanted the program to be [platform] agnostic."