“From our perspective, it was a logical choice to inspire people through music,” said Coca-Cola Global Music Marketing Manager Umut Özaydinli in the beginning of a case study on Coca-Cola’s “Open Happiness” campaign at the Billboard and Adweek Music and Advertising Conference in New York. In an advertising climate with declining TV viewership and increasing time online and music consumption, Coca-Cola looked to create a song that would be the central piece of an innovative global marketing strategy.
To do this they tapped five artists; Gnarls Barkley’s Cee-Lo, Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy, Brendon Urie from Panic at the Disco, Travis McCoy from Gym Class Heroes and newcomer Janelle Monae to collaborate on a commissioned single. The track was produced by Polow Da Don and Butch Walker. Jonathan Daniel of Crush Music Media Management said the artistic collaboration was easy due to the mutual respect between all artists involved. He went on to cite working Coca-Cola’s trademarked five-note whistle into the track as the most difficult musical challenge for the group.
“Open Happiness” then became the creative spearhead of Coca-Cola’s global advertising campaign. Activation tactics such as imprinting artist’s’ names on 300 million Coke cans in the U.K. and France both benefited the artists and allowed Coca-Cola to engage audiences around the music. Warner Music Group handled international distribution to music retailers. One of the challenges cited by Camille Hackney, senior VP of brand partnerships and commercial licensing at Atlantic Records, was distributing to all 200 countries that the Coca-Cola covers as one of the biggest brands in the world. “We’re getting there,” said Hackney, but that there were “certain places where no commerce (in music) exists.”
Social networks also played an important role in the “Open Happiness” campaign. Coca-Cola was both surprised and pleased when the track was somehow leaked onto YouTube three weeks prior to the campaign. “We were really happy, people started making their own videos with the Coke brand in it,” said Özaydinli.
In distribution of the track however, there was some disagreement between partners. Özaydinli said Coca-Cola originally wanted to give the “Open Happiness” single away for free, and that Coke had little ambition to create a revenue stream from the recording. It was clear that Atlantic Records was opposed to this strategy. A deal was reached for the track which involved a 50/50 split of revenues with Warner Music Group and an artist-friendly work-for-hire arrangement where the artists participated in the songwriting revenues. Jonathan Daniel said that the deal was “the most generous a company has ever been in a work-for-hire situation.” Coca-Cola retains ownership of publishing rights, and the master is owned by Atlantic, but it can only be used in situations approved by Coke. Coca-Cola also owns all rights associated with their 5-note hook that was created by New York music and sound design firm Human, and is part of all brand communications.
Hackney said that ownership had not been a huge part of negotiations, and that the deal had been structured in a very different way because “both parties wanted to work together.” It was clear that all involved in the project were excited by the results. Özaydinli emphasized several times that it was critical to create a partnership that everybody was happy to be involved with, otherwise it would become “just be a deal falling apart elegantly.”