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Happiness Without Borders

By:  Jay Moye May 20, 2013
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In 1971, Coca-Cola taught the world to sing through its iconic “Hilltop” ad. More than 40 years later, the brand invited the people of India and Pakistan – two groups used to living with conflict – to share a simple moment of connection and joy with the help of technology.

An uplifting Coca-Cola film shows that what unites us is stronger than what sets us apart. High-tech vending machines installed in two popular shopping malls in Lahore, Pakistan and New Delhi, India – two cities separated by only 325 miles, but seemingly worlds apart due to decades of political tension – invited consumers to put their differences aside and share a simple moment over a Coke.

The “Small World Machines” provided a live communications portal linking strangers in two nations divided by more than just borders, with the hope of provoking a small moment of happiness and promoting cultural understanding around the world. Coke and Leo Burnett used first-of-its-kind 3D touchscreen technology to project a streaming video feed onto the vending machine screen while simultaneously filming through the unit to capture a live emotional exchange. People from both countries and various walks of life were encouraged to complete a friendly task together – wave, touch hands, draw a peace sign or dance – before sharing a Coca-Cola.

Jackie Jantos Tulloch, who led the project, compares the live simulcast experience to looking into a webcam, face-to-face with another person. “Your actions are literally mirrored,” she explains. “By adding a touch screen, it allowed us to play interactive animations so people could trace things like a heart or smiley face together.”

Small World Machines

‘We Pulled it Off’

The project team overcame several engineering, infrastructure and logistical challenges over the last year to turn the Small World Machines vision into reality. The experience was scheduled to take place in January, but one of the machines got stuck in transit, and greater security challenges delayed the team's production.

“Logistically, we had to coordinate two offices inside the Leo Burnett network and another three offices inside the Coke network, as well as several key suppliers,” says Andy DiLallo, chief creative officer, Leo Burnett Sydney. “We dealt with time differences, language barriers and cultural sensitivities. But we pulled it off, and that's what matters.”

After successfully setting up the two machines in March – and adorning each with flower arrangements and other culturally relevant decorations and colors – the team cleared a few last-minute technology hurdles before the cameras finally rolled.

“We felt like the little engine that could at times and couldn’t at others,” Jantos Tulloch says.

Crews filmed through the night, capturing more than 100 interactions between people of all ages and from all walks of life. None of the people featured in the film are actors, and their reactions are completely natural.

Slideshow: Small World Machines

“The people of Pakistan and India share a lot of common passions and interests – from food and Bollywood movies, to Coke Studio music, to cricket,” said Saad Pall, Assistant Brand Manager for Coca-Cola in Pakistan. “What this project did was connect people who are not exposed to each other on a daily basis, enabling the common man in Lahore to see and interact with the common man in Delhi. It’s a small step we hope will signal what’s possible.”

Making Memories

The film features tender encounters, such as a young girl in Delhi touching hands with an older woman on the Pakistani side, as well as more spirited interactions including an impromptu dance-off between two men in their 60s that went on for several minutes.

“We couldn’t get them to stop,” Pall said. “And when they finally did, they were both out of breath.”

DiLallo said hearing people share their stories made the experience even more special. “There was just a level of genuine joy and awe once the Small World Machines were activated,” he said. “Seeing a little kid run up to the machine and try to high-five it was one. Another person came up to me and said he'd lived in India his entire life and had never 'seen into' Pakistan. It was amazing to him to see what they wore. That's such a small thing you would never think about, particularly coming from the West.”

At the end of the nearly 10-hour shoot, both audiences cranked up the music, danced and waved goodbye to their new-found friends across the border. The crews behind the camera joined in, too, including the Coca-Cola teams from Pakistan and India.

“It was such a great way to conclude what I consider to be the highlight of my career,” Jantos Tulloch said. “Working on brand Coca-Cola is powerful enough because of the voice and scale of the brand, but when you layer a story like this on top, you realise that we’re not just telling a Coca-Cola story. We’re telling a bigger, more profound story about the connectedness of the world.”

The experience struck an especially emotional chord for the Coca-Cola teams from India and Pakistan, who collaborated on the project. Ajay Naqvi, general manager, creative excellence, Coca-Cola India, said he got goosebumps the first time he saw the film. And the universal message will resonate with people outside India and Pakistan, he explained, “because cultural and social tensions exist around the world, and they exist for selfish reasons.

“But deep down – as this film shows – humanity is about togetherness and happiness.”