Coke Seeks Optimism from ‘Magnificent 5’ Agencies

Coca-Cola has finally unveiled M5, a design project that asked five design groups from five continents to “create and share visions of optimism.”

The result, at www.them5.com, is a collection of unbranded short videos from Caviar (Japan), The Designers Republic (U.K.), MK12 (U.S.A.), Rex & Tennant McKay (South Africa), and Lobo (Brazil). Each agency created a 3- to 5-minute short film set to music from an up-and-coming music group, including Towa Tei, Citizen Bird, Guided by Voices, Fischerspooner, and The Flaming Lips.

According to Matt Fraction, one of MK12’s founders, the assignment was “too good to be true.”

“Coke was a sponsor, really: they made it all happen and left everyone alone to do the work. No product placement, no credit, etc. They didn’t want a Coke commercial. They wanted to commission a piece of work from us,” he wrote on his blog.

MK12 was allowed to show the work in public this summer, but was asked not to reveal Coke’s involvement. “They’re looking, I think, into becoming patrons of work like this, the way they once did for Warhol & co. And so that’s M5 and that’s why we did it,” Fraction wrote.

The M5, or “Magnificent Five,” agencies also designed artistic renditions of aluminum Coke bottles to be released in limited-edition runs this fall at “the world’s finest clubs and lounges,” along with T-shirts and other merchandise from the project. Each bottle has a “day mode,” as it is seen under normal light, and a “night mode,” for viewing under a black light, as at a club.

According to Joseph Jaffe, a marketing consultant and author of Life After the 30-second Spot, the initiative is an outstanding example of the changing role of advertising.

“In the past, advertising has for the most part been about three things — to inform, to persuade, and to remind,” he said. “Lately it’s all awareness and repetition, and not much persuading going on.” Advertising plays three new roles in this initiative, Jaffe said, “to involve, to empower, and to demonstrate.”

“There’s a demonstration of the essence of the brand, of creativity. In this case, it’s not just talking about it, it’s actually producing the bottles. The added touch of ‘lights-on’ and ‘lights-off’ views is really smart as well. The idea of seeing them in context at a bar or party makes them that much more desirable,” Jaffe said.

“One of the challenges for Coke is to keep their brand relevant, and to achieve that aspirational and desirable quotient associated with it. Coke is so accessible and ubiquitous. What this does, by creating a limited edition, in a sense, creates something that people may actually seek out,” Jaffe said.

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