Coca-Cola tests the video mobile waters

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Beverage giant Coca-Cola Co. is ringing up a new marketing tactic with its recent mobile-video marketing tests in an attempt to reach customers globally on the most personal of devices.

The company created video ads on mobile phone Internet browsers as part of Coca-Cola's "The Coke Side of Life" global campaign. In addition, the brand unveiled the new Sprite Yard program, a campaign targeting African-American youth, during last week's Mobile Marketing Forum 2007, making it clear that it is taking mobile very seriously.

"For brands like us trying to reach a youth demographic, we know that mobile devices are more prevalent than any other media," said Tom Daly, group manager of global interactive marketing at Coca-Cola.

The Atlanta-based company teamed up with mobile marketing firm AdMob's click-to-video mobile ad technology to do a two-hour test mailing in 120 countries around the world. AdMob, San Mateo, CA, works to ensure deliverability and rendering across a range of devices and formats.

The mobile ads included both graphical and text formats on mobile Web pages with links to view videos on an AdMob Web-based landing page. The "Bottle Films" landing page included a 15-second downloadable video that consumers could watch on their cell phones. The mobile messages had three different calls-to-action, all of which encouraged consumers to click through.

According to Mr. Daly, 100 percent of the videos that were downloaded were viewed.

This mobile video mailing was the first in Coca-Cola's big plans to reach consumers on mobile devices. In most countries the mobile tactic was intended as a branding effort, but in Japan it included a call-to-purchase action. The beverage maker may explore this direct effort in future pushes.

"The Coke Side of Life" campaign was launched in March 2006 with television spots on Fox's "American Idol" and the NCAA's Final Four on CBS, and saw its way to international television. Its message is that drinking Coke makes people happy.

In addition, outdoor and print versions have appeared worldwide, supported by an extensive online campaign that features viral videos and an interactive site at www.thecokesideoflife.com.

Mr. Daly said despite the cultural differences the messaging is universal across all 120 countries included in the campaign.

"The nature of the campaign was created by design to be relevant and meaningful to touch on brand values on a global basis," Mr. Daly said.

Coca-Cola's latest mobile effort is the Sprite Yard WAP site for mobile handsets that will let consumers download and share pictures, interact with friends via text messages, receive nuggets of exclusive information and use a planner.

Sprite is Coca-Cola's No. 2 beverage worldwide after Coke, selling 10 billion single-serve packages each year.

"The brand becomes the enabler of mobile social connections," Mark J. Greatrex, senior vice president of marketing communications and insights at Coca-Cola, told a gathering of the nation's leading mobile marketing executives. "The Yard users literally have their friends in their pockets."

The mobile marketing effort is part of Coca-Cola's plan to "create, connect and customize on-the-go experiences," according to Mr. Greatrex.

Sprite's "usage over-indexes with mobile phone usage," Mr. Greatrex said. "This is Generation C and they're right at the center of the mobile target audience."

The Yard effort launched June 1 in China, with a U.S. debut planned for later this month and worldwide in the months ahead. Coca-Cola will publicize the WAP site via codes on Sprite bottles. In return, consumers will receive wallpapers, games, ringtones and "mobisodes."

"Simply stated, the Sprint Yard is a significant step to transforming the marketing model at Coca-Cola," Mr. Greatrex said.

Given Coca-Cola's caution for its brands' reputation, precautions have been taken to ensure that nothing inappropriate appears on the mobile site or is disseminated via that platform.

"We've taken appropriate steps to make sure that the Yard is in a safe and constantly moderated environment," Mr. Greatrex said. "Consider it a PG-13 environment."

Of course there are other challenges that need to be overcome. Coca-Cola needs to integrate mobile into all its marketing efforts. It must find ways to measure the performance of these initiatives.

The company also has to sign up more consumers for more database marketing. And then there's the overarching reasons for such marketing outreach.

"We need to explore how mobile marketing can drive impulse purchases at point of sale," Mr. Greatrex said.

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