Music + Ads: Coke’s ‘Open Happiness’

NEW YORK “From our perspective, it was a logical choice to inspire people through music,” said Coca-Cola global music marketing manager Umut Ozaydinli in the beginning of a case study on Coca-Cola’s “Open Happiness” campaign at the Adweek and Billboard Music and Advertising Conference here today.

In an ad climate with declining TV viewership and increasing time spent online and consuming music, Coca-Cola looked to create a song that would be the central piece of an innovative global marketing strategy.

To do this the company tapped five artists — Gnarls Barkley’s Cee-Lo, Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy, Brendon Urie from Panic at the Disco, Travis McCoy from Gym Class Heroes and newcomer Janelle Monae — to collaborate on a commissioned single. The track was produced by Polow Da Don and Butch Walker.

Jonathan Daniel of Crush Music Media Management said the artistic collaboration was easy due to the mutual respect between all artists involved. Working Coca-Cola’s trademarked five-note whistle into the track as the most difficult musical challenge for the group, he said.

“Open Happiness” then became the creative spearhead of Coca-Cola’s global advertising campaign.

Activation tactics such as imprinting artists’ names on 300 million Coke cans in the U.K. and France benefited the artists and allowed Coca-Cola to engage audiences around the music. Warner Music Group handled international distribution to music retailers.

One of the challenges cited by Camille Hackney, svp of brand partnerships and commercial licensing at Atlantic Records, was distributing to all 200 countries that carry the Coke brand. “We’re getting there,” said Hackney, but that there were “certain places where no commerce [in music] exists.”

Social networks also played an important role in the campaign. Coca-Cola was both surprised and pleased when the track was somehow leaked onto YouTube three weeks prior to the campaign. “We were really happy, people started making their own videos with the Coke brand in it,” said Ozaydinli.

In distribution of the track however, there was some disagreement between partners. Ozaydinli said Coca-Cola originally wanted to give the “Open Happiness” single away free, and that Coke had little ambition to create a revenue stream from the recording. It was clear that Atlantic was opposed to this strategy. A deal was reached for the track involving a 50/50 split of the revenue with Warner Music Group and an artist-friendly work-for-hire arrangement where the artists participated in the writing revenue. Daniel said that the deal was “the most generous a company has ever been in a work-for-hire situation.”

The marketer retains ownership of publishing rights, and the master is owned by Atlantic, but it can only be used in situations approved by Coke. The beverage giant also owns all rights associated with their five-note hook that was created by New York music and sound design firm Human, and is part of all brand communications.

Hackney said that ownership had not been a huge part of negotiations, and that the deal had been structured in a very different way because “both parties wanted to work together.” It was clear that all involved in the project were excited by the results.

Ozaydinli emphasized several times that it was critical to create a partnership that everybody was happy to be involved with, otherwise it would become “just be a deal falling apart elegantly.”


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Publish date: June 5, 2009 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT