Jonathan Mildenhall is vice-president, global advertising strategy and creative excellence, at the Coca-Cola Company. He has worked with ad agencies such as Bartle Bogle Hegarty, McCann-Erickson and TBWA before joining Coke and in this role, oversees marketing communications, idea development and content production. He talks to Viveat Susan Pinto on the challenges of marketing in a country where Coke is not the leader. Edited excerpts:
India is unique because there are two cola brands, Thums Up and Coke, from the same company. And, Coke does not lead the market, Thums Up does. How are you approaching marketing communications in India?
Most people in the company are surprised that there is a cola bigger than Coke and people keep asking me what is the relevance of Thums Up and how iconic a brand is it. When I do explain to them how big a brand it is in India, the next question that comes my way is: How is Coke going to compete with Thums Up? The credit goes to the team here that they have continued to consolidate Thums Up as the icon of masculinity, which actually frees a lot of conversational space for Coke to be the icon of happiness. I see these two iconic brands to be having clearly differentiated platforms for them to co-exist peacefully in India.
In most markets abroad, you have begun integrating Coke’s brand promise of ‘Open Happiness’ into the lives of people. Examples being the Christmas Day initiative you undertook in Philippines last year, where you re-united migrant workers with their families or the community-building initiatives you undertook in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami. Is cause marketing and advertising increasingly becoming one?
It is only appropriate that part of the business should engage in community building. It is a gift we get when consumers buy our brands. Thanks to the standing that Coke has, we can afford the opportunity, also the responsibility, to ensure we make a difference to the world we live in.
For us, this philosophy is fairly new. Just about two years, I would say, since we have begun doing work like this. In some markets such as India, we are yet to roll it out. But we will over time.
Coke is a sponsor of the London Olympics this year. What are your plans for the Games?
We will have TV and cinema advertising, besides on-ground activities. Our anthem for the London Olympics is ready as part of the ‘Move to the Beat’ campaign, currently on in 11 European markets. This campaign is aimed at bringing teenagers closer to the Olympic Games, to be held in July.
The idea that I am most excited about is the Beat Box, the Coca-Cola pavilion, which we’ve built right in the heart of the Olympics Village in London. This will be our TV programming centre because we will be shooting ads every day through the duration. The Beat Box will also be our VIP entertainment suite, where celebrities will come and hang-out with us. It is also open to visitors. And, to make their experience exciting, we have embedded different sporting noises within the architecture of the Beat Box. So, people who visit it can play and interact with the sounds. The programming that will come out of all this should be interesting to watch.
Why did you opt to give Coke’s summer campaign in India to Lowe, when McCann is the worldwide agency on the brand?
We are fiercely loyal to our roster of agencies and try and retain them for all projects. But, sometimes you need a fresh perspective on the brand and that is why Lowe was given the summer project. Does that mean McCann is out of the picture? Not at all.
You have frequently spoken about the 70:20:10 ratio in advertising. Could you highlight what this is?
The ratio came about following an observation a few years ago. It was increasingly becoming difficult for my teams across the world to get budgets approved for innovative work. This is because the traditional approach to advertising is to replicate what you have done previously. While I understand there will be some amount of replication in our advertising, I am a strong believer that advertising is about innovation. So, we came up with this principle, which said 70 per cent would be our bread and butter content, something we simply can’t do away with. Another 20 per cent would be innovative work and 10 per cent would be brand-new ideas that had never been done before. Increasingly, my job is to not import and export the 70 per cent, but to build confidence in teams to come up with the 10 per cent ideas.