Cross-Media Case Study: Coke Zero: Zeroing in on the Grid


Coke gets in the game with Tron:Legacy

When Coke Zero entered into a marketing partnership with Disney's Tron:Legacy last fall, the pressure was on to do something spectacular, particularly in the digital and mobile realms given that the film was sure to impress audiences with extraordinary 3-D visuals and computer-generated effects. "It was really important for us within the backdrop of such a breakthrough film to create a cutting-edge marketing plan that allowed for consumers to experience Tron like they haven't experienced it with any other medium," acknowledges Maurice Cooper, senior brand manager of Coke Zero, Coca-Cola North America. "So that was our brief - we wanted to give an innovative look into the world of Tron through Coke Zero."

Following that brief, Crispin Porter + Bogusky worked on key digital and mobile elements of the campaign, including a futuristic, Tron-centric makeover of the Coke Zero site. From November 2010 through January 2011, the revamped served as home to Tron:Legacy-oriented content, including a location-based mobile video game; an augmented-reality experience; and exclusive Tron: Legacy goodies ranging from wallpaper to Daft Punk tracks from the film. "We wanted it to be a place where you engaged with various aspects of the movie and where you could get lost in the world of Tron," Cooper says.

With young men as a primary target, Coke Zero was keen on making a mobile game part of the experience. According to comScore, 46.2 percent of male smartphone subscribers age 13 and up played a game on their mobile phones between September 2010 and November 2010; 13.8 percent of them had played games on their mobile phones every day; and 30 percent of them had downloaded games to their mobile phones. Ultimately CP+B, with support from Coca-Cola's internal IT department, delivered the Coke Zero LiveCycle mobile game, which is billed as the first-ever location-based mobile video game. "I would argue that we've created a new category of game that sits at the confluence of video games and location-based games," says cp+b vice president and group creative director Dave Schiff, who - as an aside - points out that video game and app development have changed the nature of what it means to work in advertising these days.

"You're not trying to get to market with a TV campaign or print ads. Your competitors are no longer advertising agencies or other brands, they're start-ups. You're looking at all these people out there making apps and making digital properties, and you're hoping to beat them to the punch," Schiff says. "We know if we don't get there first, somebody else will."

Back to LiveCycle, Cooper says the goal was to give fans of Tron:Legacy the opportunity to feel like they were part of the movie's iconic light cycle battle scene. Players of the mobile game walk around large, open areas with their phones, building digital light walls as they move. The goal is to derezz your opponent's light walls before they derezz yours. (For those of you who don't know Tron speak, derezz is short for deresolution, which means to make disappear.)

In the initial stages of game development, it was thought that GPS alone would be used to track a player's movements; however, given that there is a little bit of lag with GPS, CP+B also utilized a phone's built-in accelerometer and compass to track players in real-time.

Beyond making LiveCycle fun and functional, it was also important to create a game that was safe to play. "We wanted to make sure people weren't driving around in their cars or riding their bikes while they were playing it," stresses CP+B vice president and creative technology director Mathew Ray. To remedy that potential hazard, the game has a speed limit. If a player goes too fast, their light cycle's power source will be depleted, and they will have to stop playing and recharge it.

While the game was initially available to iPhone users only, an Android version was subsequently released. The game began as single-player, but multiplayer functionality was added to later versions. "If I invite my friends to play, and they're in another city, I can play against them even though they're not in the same place physically," Ray says. "So the idea of connecting two remote spaces into this weird virtual space mapped over the concept of Tron really well."

Reading through the reviews of the game on iTunes, people describe LiveCycle as fun and say they can't believe it was free, but there are numerous complaints about having to log in to Facebook to access the multiplayer mode. Many of the reviewers didn't feel comfortable doing that.

If time hadn't been an issue, Schiff says he would have added an augmented-reality component to the game "where conceivably someone could have scanned a can of Coke Zero and gotten a performance boost in the game."

As previously noted, there was a separate augmented-reality experience hosted at the Coke Zero site. It was created by Disney, and visitors who had either a can of Coke Zero or a cup from a movie theater with an AR code on it, could have held it up to their webcam and seen and manipulated a vehicle from Tron:Legacy. "We walked into AR with Avatar," Cooper says, "and the Disney relationship was able to advance that a little further [with Tron: Legacy] in helping to make [the AR code] accessible not only on Coke Zero cans but also on cinema cups. So whether you bought a Coke Zero in the supermarket or at the movies, you could bring the experience of the movie home by going to your computer and really engaging with those vehicles that are so stunning in the movie."

Who could have envisioned back when the original Tron was released in 1982 - the era of parachute pants and boom boxes - that location-based mobile games and augmented reality would be possible today? It's sort of trippy to imagine the digital and mobile marketing tools that will be available when the third Tron film is released. (At press time, word was a sequel to Tron: Legacy would soon be announced.) "Just thinking about it makes our heads explode," Schiff muses. "We look at things we made a year ago, and they seemed to be very advanced at the time, very cutting edge, then when you look at [what] you can do just one year later with the same idea, the same concept, the way you could distribute it, the way you could make it shareable, the way you could augment it, it starts to become jaw-dropping."

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