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The Play's The Thing

By:  Marianne Pizzi May 16, 2013
Front Page Fanta

As our children labor to prepare themselves to thrive in a globalized world, they no longer have enough time to play. Boo-hoo, right? It seems frivolous that these rapidly maturing young people should be goofing off. Aren’t the teen years the time to set aside childish things?

As it turns out, that’s the last thing our youngsters should do, lest we marginalize the real work of the teenage years - play. Play is a biological human need, and it is as important to teens’ healthy development as sleep. Research has shown that play fosters trust, curiosity, perseverance, creativity, flexibility, and emotional self-regulation, just to name a few. We’re accustomed to thinking of play as structured or unstructured, real or virtual. As it turns out, play is a good deal more complex than that. The National Institute for Play, which must be a great place to work, has organized human play into several major groupings, of which four--social play, hard play, celebratory play, and object play--are powerful development tools for teens.

Those of us who work on Fanta, a brand that sees playing as among its most fundamental attributes, have always believed in the power of play, and in today’s world, that power is only growing. For millennials, gaming is the currency of their lives. Games are key connection points, tools for learning in schools, at work and at home, and important social vehicles, fostering communities of both the virtual and flesh-and-blood variety. They provide a channel for talking to friends and the lens through which they experience life.

At their best, games provide the chance to enter new worlds and make decisions about how to interact and how to work and play together. That’s in stark contrast to the role they played in previous generations: Back in the 20th century, games were largely frivolous--prevalent in the daily newspaper’s Jumble puzzle and the rattle and thrum of arcades, but never much more than a pleasant diversion.

Today’s gamified world represents a welcome mat rather than an obstacle for us. It’s a chance to join consumers in a deeper, more engaging form of storytelling and to stretch ourselves into new creative arenas. With “Play Fanta” we’ve done exactly that. It is the world’s first wholly playable franchise. Every element involves a game of some kind, from the interactive graphic novel that forms the basis for the content to the TV spots to the player-driven content that bridges across all digital platforms.

Fanta Town Square

The program, in short, is content that has intrinsic value to players, instead of a force-fit marketing message that interrupts the natural flow of their own playful lives. This is a perfect time for a brand with play at its heart; technology has enabled us to align the brand’s character and the social evolution in which we find ourselves.

The “Play Fanta: Saving the Source” interactive graphic novel, which has five HTLM5 games embedded in it, tells the story of a group of kids whose source of play is mysteriously interrupted. The central characters, using tools such as a yo-yo and a hoverboard, go on a quest to save their way of life. The story brings them through a variety of set pieces that involve different games--and in the process, link the game back to the real world.

Even the TV spots have a gaming component. Viewers who watch the spots in the graphic novel or online will find links to games in the video



“Play Fanta” goes further with the concept of gamification than any previous marketing effort, urging players to create their own experiences right alongside the star characters while engaging them in different types of games--social, rough-and-tumble, object-oriented, celebratory. It also goes further afield, with nearly 200 markets around the world playing along.

“Play Fanta” is, in the argot of The Coca-Cola Company, “liquid and linked”--everything is connected and seamlessly flows across all platforms globally, easily translating into other media, languages and cultures and adapting to every level of digital infrastructure. And all the different layers of games work on their own and can be played in any order and shared amongst friends.

That keeps players engaged and excited long after they’ve worked their way through the core storyline and while they wait for future installments in the “Play Fanta” franchise. Content should drive loyalty and strong emotional ties to the brand, and “Play Fanta” embodies the kind of immersive, two-way storytelling that great content should elicit. This is no trade secret. It’s Coca-Cola’s Content 2020 philosophy, and they’ve put it up on YouTube, after all.

Ultimately, “Play Fanta” brings about a whole new concept for content: to create a story people want to play that is embedded inside a world they want to visit and engage with, with the mechanics that allow them to connect and enticing elements they can extract and take home.

This post was originally shared on Fast Company's Co.Create.

Marianne Pizzi is Executive Group Director of Ogilvy & Mather and the global lead for Fanta.