Oliver Egan: Why Coke’s Crowdsourced Commercial Fell Flat [Super Bowl 2013]

Oliver Egan: Why Coke’s Crowdsourced Commercial Fell Flat [Super Bowl 2013]

The soda giant misses the mark this year by worrying too much about social media, and not enough about storytelling.

Oliver Egan, CHI&Partners
  • 10 february 2013

Image and credits:

The creator of some of the most memorable Super Bowl advertising forgot about storytelling in pursuit of ‘participation’ this year.

The sobering truth for those of us that work in the industry is that advertising in its traditional sense continues to be less effective. You know the drill… more viewing options + more fragmented audiences + DVRs = fewer people paying attention to what brands have to say during the commercial break.

Which is why these days we spend as much time plotting how the stories we tell on behalf of brands will be distributed (seeding strategies, social spread, etc.) as we do conceiving those stories in the first place.

Except on this day.

On Super Bowl Sunday, American consumers enter a parallel universe: one where a huge number of them are watching the same show, live and (most startlingly) giving a shit about advertising. After all, it’s not a normal Sunday when consumers are actively trawling YouTube to preview the spots they will be watching that evening.

I’m all for CMOs looking for more bang from their buck on Super Bowl Sunday. Build an experience around the spot, create an event, drive participation, hash-tag the shit out of it; but please recognize that The Super Bowl is the ultimate showcase for amazing storytelling and please make this your priority.

From Mean Joe Green, to Happiness Factory and Grand Theft Auto, this is something Coca Cola has gotten right many times before. Storytelling that communicates something important about the brand (its core narrative of happiness) within a context relevant and compelling to viewers.

But this is something they seem to have forgotten with this year’s Coke Chase. Three teams (Cowboys, Show Girls and Badlanders) are pursuing a giant bottle of Coke across a Mad Max-esque desert dystopia with consumers asked to vote for who they want to reach it first. But Coke have been so focused on their pursuit of consumer participation that they have forgotten to create something worthy of our time and attention: this is generic, banal and self-indulgent.

Generic: I am struck by the lack of brand story in this. Coke creative is usually joyful, bringing the promise of moments of simple happiness to life. But this is a generic story of a desirable product – our 3 teams could equally be pursuing a new car or phone.

Banal: As I mentioned, the first priority for Super Bowl advertisers is to make a great spot with the ancillary experience a bonus. And though there are some nice moments as you get deeper into the experience and begin sabotaging rival teams this isn’t compelling storytelling…the characters don’t steal my heart, the jokes don’t make me laugh. If Happiness Factory felt big and spellbinding and Grand Theft keenly observed and current, this just feels… small and flat.

Self-indulgent: My overriding feeling as I watch the spot and explore the rest of the experience is ‘who cares.’ Why should I care who wins? And why should I spend my social capital on spreading it on Coke’s behalf? The role of marketing is to make people care enough about a brand to act on its behalf (whether buying, liking, sharing etc). But this presumes that people already care about Coke and that helping their agency find an ending for an ad is a rewarding experience in and of itself. This feels like a better deal for the brand than it does the consumer.

The irony of course is that in 2007, Coke set out simply to make a great Super Bowl spot but in doing so, they also drove brand participation as the spot was shared and linked and imitated. In 2013, they have forgotten the storytelling in pursuit of creating an ‘event.’ I suspect that in six years time, we won’t be reminiscing about how we all got caught up in the Coke Chase of 2013.

Coca Cola

Check out more Super Bowl 2013 coverage on the site today, and join us for a Google Hangout at 2pm EST on


Fitness Advocate: Paving The Future of Workouts With Audio

Fitness & Sport
Brand Development Yesterday

Swipe Left On A Dating World Built To Keep You Single And Disconnected

Hinge's VP of Marketing Karen Fein tells us about the service's daring ditch of the swiping culture that's designed to attract advertising revenue, not meaningful connections

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Marvel Comic Tells The Story Of A Heroic Syrian Mother

Madaya Mom is the true tale of a family trapped inside a town for over a year


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Retail Yesterday

Brooklyn Cafe Lets Customers Pay By The Hour, Not By The Cup

Glasshour is an establishment that provides free coffee and pastries and charges for the time guests spend there

Technology Yesterday

Electric Spoon Changes The Way Food Tastes

The Taste Buddy is being developed to manipulate your taste buds and make everything more delicious

Related Expert

Jesse Levin

Service, Duty, Entrepreneurialism

Travel Yesterday

Bike Path In Poland Can Glow For 20 Years Using Solar Power

Cyclists can follow the shimmering blue lanes for better safety each time they ride

Technology Yesterday

Open-Source Toolkit Lets Communities Build Their Own Street Furniture

The Wikiblock database contains 30 blueprints of different neighborhood fixtures including benches, bus stops, and kiosks

Food Yesterday

Tiny Pub Only Has Space For Three People

Make Time For It is a small London pop-up bar that encourages conversation without the distraction of technology


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Community Builder: How to Hack Slack

Claire Wasserman, Founder of Ladies Get Paid, describes how she's using an internal team communication tool to build a network of thousands

PSFK Labs october 21, 2016

PSFK Picks: Top 5 Performance-Enhancing Wearables

Our new report looks at innovations pioneering the future of performance through intelligent activewear and predictive analytics

Advertising Yesterday

This Beer Was Brewed Just For Scotch Drinkers

Highland Park Scotch Whisky & Sixpoint Brewery have teamed up to create two limited-edition pairings for New York City boilermakers

Mobile Yesterday

Let An AI Librarian Help Sort Your Digital Bookmarks

A new app uses machine learning to help organize your virtual life

Mobile Yesterday

Pizza Hut Tattoo Lets You Place An Order From Your Body

The latest gimmick from the fast-food chain is a tattoo-like sticker that lets customers get delivery with a simple tap on their arm

Travel Yesterday

Reinvented Bicycle Inspired By Supercar Design

The yellow bike based on a Lamborghini has sharp edges and an aluminum alloy frame

Health Yesterday

Health Platform Gives Perspective On Your Weekly Habits

Gyroscope is a new wellness app that works by amalgamating data about your life into beautifully designed visuals

Beauty Yesterday

Korean Beauty Brand Uses VR To Let Customers Pick Their Ingredients

Innisfree created a unique experience for its Shanghai Disneyland customers with a virtual reality trip to select what goes into their purchase

Arts & Culture Yesterday

3D-Printed Creations Resemble Floating Paper Outlines

Japanese design firm Nendo's exhibition features works that look like sheets of material being folded, torn, and crumpled

Technology october 21, 2016

Concept Camera Designed To Only Take Unique Photos

Camera Restricta is tool that prompts photographers to only capture one-of-a-kind images

No search results found.