Coke sees creativity change

26 May 2011

ATLANTA: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, is leveraging a "turning point" in approaches towards creativity in order to deliver targeted and personalised interactions with consumers.

Speaking in an interview with Microsoft Advertising, Ivan Pollard, Coca-Cola's vice president for global connections, argued marketing is seemingly entering a new era.

"We used to think about creativity being about content. Then we lived through a period where it's about content and connections," he said.

"Now, I think we're on a really exciting turning point, which is how technology is combining content and connections, and elevating them into a genuine personal and relevant experience."

Although it is often suggested digital formats discourage the formulation and implementation of innovative ideas, focusing on more technical matters, Pollard offered an alternative perspective.

Rather than perceiving the new media space as restricting pioneering work, he stated that the variety of potential touchpoints constitutes an enormous opportunity.

"[Viewing] technology as a lever to change your definition of creativity is a hugely exciting thing to think about," he said.

Coca-Cola has been an early adopter of many emerging channels, but the Facebook page for its flagship product, now boasting 27.4m fans, was originally established by two brand advocates.

Given usage levels of social networks and mobile media are rising rapidly, marketers can no longer afford simply to be "looking" at participating in these arenas.

"I don't think they should be looking at them; I think they should be joining in with them," Pollard said.

More broadly, it is growing increasingly important to move beyond a one-way conversation with consumers, and instead pursue a truly interactive approach.

"Become one of the community. Behave in the community as the community dictates," Pollard said.

"Listen to what people are saying, learn from what they say, and then react in a way that adds a bit of value to their lives and brings a bit of value back to your company."

Coca-Cola's core digital properties include MyCokeRewards, a web-based loyalty platform with 15m members, and at the heart of the firm's 125th anniversary programme, which began this month.

While big ideas - such as Coca-Cola's "Summer Celebration" in the US - must always be engaging, Pollard warned practical considerations need to exert a central impact to yield the strongest possible work.

"I think the best definition of creativity I ever head was 'Somebody who is able to look at everything that everybody else has seen, but see something nobody else noticed, and then turn it to use to solve a problem,'" he said.

"Take that as a starting point; look at everything that everybody else looks, and see if you can find something that inspires you to solve a problem."

Pollard, previously a partner at agency Naked, also asserted campaigns could have their genesis in a wide range of sources, from apparently insignificant real-life events to online news stories.

"You just have to stay open to absolutely any influence that you see, whether it's a young kid kicking a ball, or reading a classic book, or finding something on the internet," he said.

"You can take inspiration for creativity from everywhere ... It can come from anywhere, and it comes at any time."

Data sourced from Microsoft Advertising; additional content by Warc staff