By Jesselle Macatiag
Coca-Cola’s homepage tagline reads, “Refreshing the world, one story at a time.” In March of 2013, the company refreshed the worlds of two nations divided over decades of conflict: India and Pakistan.
Small World Machines was a Coca-Cola advertising campaign launched to “provoke more happiness… in ways that are tangible and authentic.” The campaign placed one 3D interactive Coke machine in in Lahore, Pakistan and another in New Delhi, India. The machines created a communications portal where Indian individuals could interact with Pakistanis in real-time. A free can of Coke popped out of each machine after people from the two countries interacted with one another.
At the time of conception, the technology did not exist to pull off this kind of endeavor. Coca-Cola ad agency Leo Burnett teamed up with digital marketing and innovations agency The SuperGroup to create these machines from the ground up.
Leo Burnett’s case study highlights the challenges encountered in creating these machines. The technology not only had to project a real-time full-body image of people in different countries, but also needed to allow for hand-to-hand interaction. The result after three months of 16-hour days and multiple prototypes was an experience worthy of joyous dancing.
India and Pakistan have been embattled in political and religious conflict since 1947. That year Britain dismantled their Indian Empire creating predominately Muslim Pakistan and Hindu dominated, and nominally secular, India.
The princely states of Jammu and Kashmir were given the choice to join, through accession, either India or Pakistan. The Maharaja of Kashmir decided to do neither during the August 1947 partition. 60+ years and three major wars later, the area still sits in territorial dispute between the two countries.
Reactions to the advertising campaign on both the Indian and Pakistani sides were heartwarming. An Indian man who had never seen a Pakistani before said after engaging with the Small Worlds Machine that they were, “Not that different from us.”
Strangers of conflicting nations smiling and dancing with one another restores our faith in humanity. Moiz Syed and Saad Pall of the Coca-Cola Pakistan team said it best, “What I remember… is that moment when these people weren’t Pakistanis or Indians. For a moment, there were simply human beings. Connecting. Sharing. Smiling.”
Coca-Cola’s Small World Machines campaign may not lead to peace for the two fighting nations. Peace-making by consumerism is by no means a diplomatic solution for six decades of conflict. But for mall-goers in New Delhi and Lahore, it was a small step in Coca-Cola’s mantra to “bring people together through happiness.”
Images: Coca-Cola in Sand: Taken by Peter Davis on Flickr.com