Product / ServiceCOCA-COLA
CategoryA03. Best Use of Live Events and/or Celebrity Endorsement

The Campaign

The challenge was to create a bit more happiness on the streets of China, in light of the coldness and indifference of people living in the cities. The communication objective - drive awareness of Coca-Cola's role as the 'happiness creator'. Chinese consumers already view Coke as a popular brand, however there's a big opportunity for Coke to stake a claim and be something more meaningful than a carbonated drink. The Friendship Experiment introduced total strangers to one another, creating new friendships over a few bottles of Coke. And we photographed the happy encounters. The happiness didn't stop there. We wanted to spread it further and share it with everyone. The photos were published online and at a gallery exhibition event, where 35 Media Companies were invited to view the photos. The positive PR coverage allowed the campaign to reach over 13.5 million people to date.

The Brief

The business/marketing objective was to reinforce Coca-Cola China's position as the leading brand in the cola category. The communication objective - drive awareness of Coca-Cola's role in 'happiness creation' for China.The target audience was Chinese consumers, 18-35, living in the main cities of China. Coca-Cola's internal research have already discovered while consumers see Coke as a popular brand, there was still an opportunity to bond with them in a more meaningful way.


Thanks to the positive publicity generated by 6 TV stations, 2 News agencies, 15 newspapers and 13 news websites, over 13.5 million people have seen the Experiment to date. The campaign exceeded the target of 5 million viewers by 170%. The Friendship Experiment generated nearly US$1.4 million of free media value. This was a massive ROI of 1,166% on a modest budget of just US$120,000. Coca-Cola certainly profited from this campaign. This allowed the reinvestment of traditional media budgets to campaigns like this that drive more value. The plan now is to implement more Friendship Experiment campaigns beyond Guangzhou and into the other cities of China.


The campaign was in Guangzhou city as it's a major economic hub with a huge population of workers from different parts of China. The photographer was briefed and given a supply of Coke to share with the participants of the Experiment. This happened in late-February after the Lunar New Year holidays -- where the feeling of isolation and loneliness was strongest. This is when most people have returned to Guangzhou after spending a happy break at their hometowns in other parts of China. The Media were invited a week prior to the photo exhibition event. They were not told anything about the Experiment until the event itself. We planned to surprise the members of the press. They reacted positively upon discovering the 'friends' in the photos were actually strangers 10 minutes before they met. The campaign ran from March 12, 2013 and is still ongoing.

The Situation

With the economic boom in past ten years, China grew big and fast. The result was a mass migration to the cities to fuel the growth. With that came a lot more coldness and indifference amongst people in the cities. Rather than see it as a problem, Coca-Cola saw an opportunity to make a difference.

The Strategy

Instead of looking at the issue of coldness and apathy on the city streets as an obstacle, we reframed it: What seems to be indifferent strangers are actually potential friends whom have yet to meet. The idea was to get a photographer to go around approaching random passers-by and get these people who didn't know each other to pose together. With a few bottles of Coke as a social lubricant to break the ice. Then we photographed the happy encounter. The inspiring photos were posted online and at a gallery exhibition event. The plan included inviting 35 Media Companies (Press/TV/Online) to view the Friendship Experiment and publicise it.


Name Company Position
Richard Cotton Coca-Cola Company Advertiser's Supervisor
Steven Ng Carrot Films Producer
William Dhawan Carrot Films Director
William Huen Ogilvy/Mather Advertising Producer
Emma Wu Ogilvy Pr Senior Associate
Lisa Deng Ogilvy Pr Consultant
Jess Huang Ogilvy Pr Senior Consultant
Candy Li Ogilvy Pr Associate Director
Frangelica Liang Ogilvy Pr Vice President
Anita Beveridge Ogilvy/Mather Advertising Account Manager
Oli Goulden Ogilvy/Mather Advertising Account Manager
Martin Murphy Ogilvy/Mather Advertising Account Supervisor
Kurt Tang Ogilvy/Mather Advertising Photographer
Jasphine Chew Ogilvy/Mather Advertising Art Director
Golf Nuntawat Ogilvy/Mather Advertising Creative Director
Sean Sim Ogilvy/Mather Advertising Executive Creative Director
Francis Wee Ogilvy/Mather Advertising Executive Creative Director
Graham Fink Ogilvy/Mather Advertising Chief Creative Officer