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Why Coca-Cola is pivoting its first digital-only campaign towards TV

Coca-Cola?s second-year strategy for its ?Ahh effect? campaign that targets teenagers is mixing up its approach with a new focus on television and traditional forms of marketing.

Coca-Cola launched the ?Ahh effect? last year with what the soda giant claimed to be its first digital-only campaign. The second phase of this campaign is now focusing on incorporating mobile and Web content into a TV spot and packaging, suggesting that digital-only campaigns do not cut it for marketers targeting millennials. 


?Last year was about going in a new direction with how we interacted with teens, and it exceeded our expectations,? said Lauren Thompson, spokeswoman at Coca-Cola, Atlanta.

?For this year?s iteration of the campaign, social and mobile remain at the core, but we?re expanding to ensure we?re everywhere teens are from amusement parks to concerts to cinema, and now on TV,? she said.

Sip on mobile
In April 2013, Coca-Cola launched the ?Ahh effect? program, which includes a mobile and desktop microsite ? ? with 61 unique pieces of content.

These quick bits of branded content include games, playlists and images that are designed for teenagers. The experiences are particularly geared towards mobile users who are looking to kill a few minutes of time (see story). 

Last week MTV began rolling out TV ads on networks and similar networks that target younger audiences. The ads mimic the content found on the campaign?s microsite through an interactive music video.

Coca-Cola is also leveraging user-generated content to roll out a second TV ad at the end of April (see story). 

The idea behind the second TV spot is to tap into some of the content that consumers have shared on Coca-Cola?s microsite over the past year.

Of course, millennials and teenagers are glued to their mobile devices more than any other generation, but purely relying on digital may not be effective for marketers in creating well-rounded marketing campaigns.

Instead, Coca-Cola?s push into big-budget traditional marketing suggests that TV can still be relevant for teens if the content ? in this case, user-generated ? is relatable. 

?I don?t think they?re looking at this in isolation ? they?re not saying let?s try to recover with TV,? said Mike McGuire, Santa Clara, CA-based vice president of research at Gartner for Marketing Leaders.

?Increasingly, especially with young adults and teens, we can?t think of them just as mobile users and not ever looking at a television or a more traditional form of media,? he said. 

?What Coke has realized and is building into this campaign is there?s no one first screen, second screen [or] third screen.?

Mr. McGuire is not affiliated with Coca-Cola. He spoke based on his expertise on the subject.

The cola giant is also printing content from the ?AHH Effect? behind the labels on 20-ounce drinks and on products sold at retailers including 7-Eleven, McDonald?s and AMC Theatres.

Coca-Cola worked with Portland?s Wielden+Kennedy office on the campaign.

Moving towards mobile
In addition to the new TV spot, Coca-Cola is also revamping the design of the microsite, with many of the features playing up mobile more than the previous design. 

For example, one experience in the game last year was called ?Cat or Not.? The game showed consumers zoomed-in images of objects and players only had a few seconds to guess if the pixelated image was a cat or not.

Now, the cat-related game is called ?Laser Cats? and challenges consumers to swipe their fingers across the screen to keep lasers from hitting cats. 

?Laser Cats? is an example of how ?Ahh Effect? is moving to become a primarily mobile campaign since the swiping across the screen is a experience that is unique to a smartphone or tablet.

Another example is a new game called Penguin Curling. The game is the first multiscreen experience that Coca-Cola has ever created.

Coca-Cola was one of the frontrunner big brands in mobile and has been testing numerous tactics over the past few years to connect with teens in building lifetime loyalty.

Now that Coca-Cola has some mobile learnings, the brand is beginning to single out a few tactics that can be scaled, according to a presentation from Tom Daly, group director of mobile and search at Coca-Cola at Mobile Marketer?s Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2014 conference in January (see story). 

Specifically, mobile video is one tactic that Coca-Cola sees significant potential with as more consumers gobble up content on their smartphones and tablets.

?I think that?s what?s becoming important to companies like Coke ? this whole multiscreen orchestration,? Gartner for Marketing Leaders? Mr. McGuire said.

?I may start on digital or on devices for some of these campaigns, [so] maybe the TV becomes less about the introduction or awareness and more about tagging on to reinforce what they started on digital,? he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York