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How AI Voice Campaign ‘Alexa, I See Coke’ Came to the Movies


VMLY&R Commerce’s Manuel Bordé and Leila Katrib on Alexa taking on Khaleeji Arabic, connecting with pop culture and creating a mealtime movie experience, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani

How AI Voice Campaign ‘Alexa, I See Coke’ Came to the Movies

Coca-Cola is synonymous with going to the movies. With popcorn in one hand and a Coke in the other, to me, there’s no better combination. Celebrating this as well as the Saudi Arabian launch of Amazon’s virtual assistant ‘Alexa’, the latest campaign by Coca-Cola Middle East sees the audience interact with the virtual tool to grab a free drink.

Across TV, billboards and more, Coca-Cola ads replicate animated scenes from movies and TV shows, encouraging viewers to watch them and let their Alexa assistants know when they spot the iconic, hourglass bottle in the background. By uttering the words, ‘Alexa, I See Coke’, movie watchers and Coke lovers benefit from receiving a free drink on their next shopping trip - as well as a hilarious response from Alexa. In this innovative use of AI, and as Khaleeji Arabic becomes compatible with Amazon’s tool, it’s a clever way to get people to look out for and interact with the brand in a market where it isn’t the market leader.

Speaking to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani, VMLY&R Commerce’s global chief creative officer Manuel Bordé and the agency’s MENA executive creative director Leila Katrib explain how they achieved the project which has been almost two years in the marking.

LBB> Coca-Cola has always had an association with the cinema, did that factor into the initial creative discussions you had? Can you tell us about the ideation process that brought you to this idea?

Manuel & Leila> From the inception of product placement, it’s been every brand’s wish for people to see their product on TV, crave it, and then add it to the basket on their next store visit. Coke, one of the most iconic brands in pop culture, has appeared in hundreds of movies and TV series over the last century. For the first time though ‘I See Coke’ allows viewers to see it, say it, and then enjoy it – instantly turning every placement, from a wall sign in the background to the bottle on the table, into an interactive shoppable experience. 

LBB> What did the brand want to achieve with this spot and was there anything they were particularly keen to include?

Manuel & Leila> In a market where Coke is not the market leader, the objective was to make Coke top of mind with a fun and engaging activation. Not only were we able to provide that, but with voice innovation commerce, we also made the shopping experience seamless – see it, say it, enjoy it.

LBB> With AI as a relatively new and unknown piece of technology, why was it important to create a fun take on the spot?

Manuel & Leila> We used AI technology to identify all the movies and TV series that had Coke placement. To drive more engagement with Alexa, an army of copywriters crafted unique playful responses relevant to each-and-every scene. Doing so gamified the experience for users, who had to look for Coke across movies or TV series, just to discover how Alexa would respond.

LBB> How did the collaboration with Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa first come up and what were the logistics involved in being able to make the campaign possible?

Manuel & Leila> We wanted to be the first brand in the region to use voice command commerce to make the shopping experience innovative, easy, and fun. And Alexa was the perfect partner for us – it ticked all the boxes. We were able to develop the skill internally with our own tech team based in New York and manually fed all the data points as well as Alexa’s responses, into the skill.

LBB> The spot coincided with Alexa’s compatibility with Khaleeji Arabic. How did the timing of this release factor into creating ‘I See Coke’?

Manuel & Leila> Alexa had just launched in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) with its Khaleeji Arabic feature, which was the perfect time to launch ‘I See Coke’. It was a great opportunity to craft Alexa’s responses in the relevant language that resonated with our audience to drive more engagement, while also demonstrating Alexa’s new Khaleeji capabilities. 

LBB> Can you tell us a little bit about the timescale of the campaign?

Manuel & Leila> Believe it or not, the idea was almost two years in the making. We initially chose KSA, since it was a market where Coke was not the market leader. But then we had to wait for Alexa to launch there. In the end, it was worth it though. By launching it at the right time and in the right place, we were able to tip the scale and completely change the game for Coke.

LBB> What was the biggest challenge to overcome during the process of creating the collaboration?

Manuel & Leila> Crafting Alexa’s responses was definitely the most challenging! We had to launch the skill bilingually in both English and Khaleeji for the hundreds of moments that Coke appears in movies and TV. And at the same time, we wanted to make sure that each individual response was still witty and fun – hard enough in one language, but in two! Well, you can imagine. The other challenge was building the skill and then feeding that data manually in both languages, as well as ensuring that all the steps and possible interactions were properly covered.

LBB> Seeing the red and black colours instantly invokes the classic feeling of a Coke ad. Can you tell us how you created the animation to go alongside the campaign?

Manuel & Leila> The illustration style follows Coke’s iconicity with its colours and minimalistic approach. By incorporating the Coke bottle into scenes of iconic movies where Coke appears, we gave hints for people to guess and engage with Alexa. We collaborated with Believe Digital, an animation studio based in Chile, to bring these illustrations to life in this beautifully animated film. 

LBB> What was the process of choosing the movies you featured? They’re so instantly recognisable to the audience. 

Manuel & Leila> To launch the experience, we featured the most iconic and popular movies – those that would be instantly recognisable. They were presented only as hints though, to get people guessing even when seeing the film for the first time. We purposely selected the most famous scenes to leverage the power of Coke historically in global pop culture. We followed with social content on Coca-Cola Middle East’s social pages with daily hints and posters to keep that curiosity and excitement going. 

LBB> Further from that, can you tell us about some of the essential elements included in the campaign imagery?

Manuel & Leila> We took scenes from the film as well as other movies and TV series, integrated Coke’s iconic bottle as part of these illustrated scenes, and added the timeline of exactly where Coke appears in these movies as hints on social media for people to guess where to find Coke to tell Alexa.

LBB> Tell us about the engagement. How have people been using Alexa to identify Coca-Cola products as they watch movies?

Manuel & Leila> It’s really very simple: if you see it (in a movie or TV series), say ‘Alexa I see Coke’ and then enjoy it (Alexa will send you a discount code that you can instantly redeem from Nana, the e-retailer we partnered with in KSA).

LBB> Have you heard or seen any unexpected reactions to it?

Manuel & Leila> The reaction has been phenomenal – with people sharing their engagement with Alexa across social. People seem to be genuinely surprised by Alexa’s responses, so we’re seeing a lot of those ‘wow’ reactions. Laughter also seems to be a big initial reaction for so many. Let’s be honest, it’s hilarious to hear Alexa reply, “Who you gonna call… To share this Coke with?” in response to the placement in Ghostbusters, “I’ll be there for you, and so will an ice-cold Coca-Cola!” in response to Friends, or “I’m in sleep mode. Having a dream within a dream about having Coca-Cola” if you spot Coke in Inception. 

LBB> What’s next to come from the campaign?

Manuel & Leila> With the campaign being so successful in KSA, Coca-Cola is now looking to launch it globally in other markets.

LBB> Is there anything else you’re keen to share that we haven’t spoken about?

Manuel & Leila> This campaign is a perfect example of VMLY&R Commerce’s ‘One Team’ philosophy which has multiple teams around the globe coming together to deliver the best in creative commerce. Our US and Dubai offices collaborated daily on this project, from design and writing to tech development. It truly shows how a great idea with the right teamwork, effort, and perseverance, can redefine creative commerce globally – and be a real game changer for a brand.

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VMLY&R Middle East, Fri, 12 May 2023 16:53:00 GMT