Coke’s ‘Small World Machines’ a rage at Cannes

21 Jun,2013


By Ravi Balakrishnan


One of the most talked about films by the Indian contingent at Cannes this year is not created by a local agency.


Small World Machines is a video from Leo Burnett Sydney for Coca-Cola about two camera equipped Coke vending machines set up in Lahore and Delhi. The film features Indians and Pakistanis interacting with each other, via the machine (see video at:


People dance, wave and use the machine to draw peace signs and hearts. It’s all quite heart-warming – even the comments on YouTube, a fairly consistent source of contemporary bigotry, are mostly positive.



The Story behind the Coke Small World Machines


Why winning at Cannes is good for our business: Jonathan Mildenhall


Until you speak to the Indian ad folk about it. It is perhaps only fitting that a film about borders should be so polarising. A famous creative chief believes Indian agencies ought to hang their heads in shame for not having come up with something like this.


There’s another agency head who hints darkly at this being a form of client sanctioned scam, an unrealistic message entirely dissociated from the prevailing atmosphere of suspicion and hostility between the countries. He says, “We mustn’t forget Coke is the company that created Santa Claus. There’s a big difference between impacting lives and being in the news.”


The other perhaps unfair critique is that while Leo Burnett Sydney came up with a great idea, the team played it safe by choosing two antagonistic nations that are still more or less functional as opposed to the Koreas or Israel and Palestine. And then there are people on the fence. Says Satbir Singh, chief creative officer at Havas, ”I am not sure about the scale since I live in India, and here’s where I saw it first.  It did give me goose bumps, but I think it’s more of a viral video than an activation.” None of which has stopped the film from doing very well. It’s picked up four bronzes, one silver and three golds in categories like Cyber, Direct, Media and Outdoor at Cannes 2013.


Jonathan Mildenhall

Ad pundits believe it could have bagged a Grand Prix or two if it was not up against the immensely popular ‘Dumb Ways to Die’. The project was conceived after Jonathan Mildenhall, VP of global advertising strategy and creative excellence at Coca-Cola, decided to galvanise Leo Burnett, one of the lead agencies globally, asking them to come up with a global idea.


The agency got back in six weeks with a book of 15 ideas. Mr Mildenhall recalls, “They had done the research about the cultural challenges between India and Pakistan and created a story that I knew that the brand could help address. We approved where it was going to happen in just one meeting.” What followed was a logistical nightmare. While Mr Mildenhall refuses to reveal the budget, the project went 150% over its original price tag, with Coke having to abandon plans for Pakistan on their first attempt due to local challenges. However, Mr Mildenhall is clear this could only work in its current format and not as a vanilla TV commercial.


”In that case it would have been simple, contrived, preempted and pretested. TV ads are our bread and butter. But we wouldn’t have created a genuine conversation that’s in the heart of not just Indians and Pakistanis but the people from these countries living elsewhere. Once we created an activation we knew that compared to a commercial this was worth its weight in gold.” Andy Dilallo, chief creative officer at Leo Burnett Sydney, believes the idea has got legs and can be used in other cases as well.


Source:The Economic Times

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