After ponying up major media dollars to sponsor past seasons of “American Idol,” the Coca-Cola Co. wanted to try something different for the 10th iteration of Fox’s singing competition.
While the beverage giant’s iconic red Coke cups have for years been positioned in front of the “Idol” judges and the sodamaker was responsible for the design of the lounge where contestants hang out between perfs, Coke is now aiming to show off its own musical flair, and enlist viewers to do the same.
Coke’s “Perfect Harmony” promo effort enlisted fans online to help singer-songwriter Taio Cruz pen an original song to be performed during “Idol’s” May 25 finale and played across various platforms thereafter.
Cruz’s credits include hits “Break Your Heart,” featuring Ludacris, “Dynamite,” Travie McCoy’s “Higher” and “Telling the World,” for Fox’s toon “Rio.”
“Going into season 10, we could have sat back and done what we’ve done year over year with the show, but we thought we needed to do more and leverage its enormous appeal and scale and bring a new music platform to life for brand Coke that really connects with consumers,” Jed Selkowitz, director of entertainment marketing for the Coca-Cola Co told Variety.
Resulting song, called “Positive,” is made up of verses that Cruz kicked off and fans finished with lyrics submitted at AmericanIdol.com. Final version of each verse was voted on throughout an eight-week effort that ends Friday.
Coke’s program specifically targets “Idol’s” younger viewers, and builds around the “framework of music being personal, portable and shared,” according to Selkowitz.
“The target consumer for brand Coke is teens, and there are a lot of budding songwriters out there,” Selkowitz said. “This helps them participate on a limited scale.”
While voters must be at least 13 years old, those submitting lyrics had to be at least 18 so that they could sign waivers handing over rights to their words to the beverage maker. Company also had to make sure lyrics hadn’t previously been used.
Coke was already experimenting with “Idol,” using the show as a platform to promote its other brands, including Vitamin Water and Fanta.
The company, along with the show’s two other key sponsors, Ford Motor Co. and AT&T, haven’t been willing to give up their prominent spots in the series, which is still performing well in the ratings. But those brands needed to figure out ways to remain fresh, especially as the integrations have become more expensive — up to $50 million to $60 million a year, vs. the $25 million to $35 million marketers spent early in “Idol’s” run.
Coke’s songwriting program received an on-air mention by host Ryan Seacrest during episodes, while Coke ran 15-minute spots during the show. Program was also backed by a buy on Seacrest’s radio show, while messages on Facebook and Twitter have also drummed up interest.
Seacrest commended Coke’s effort, considering “?’Idol’ auditions are proof that many of our fans have a passion and desire to sing professionally,” but “what we don’t get to explore on camera are the many talented songwriters that exist as well.”
More than 15,000 lyrics were submitted within the first few days.
Coke has left most of the creative work to Cruz and “Idol” fans.
“We’re not saying we’re writing a song,” Selkowitz said. “We’re helping you help Taio write the song. We’re sitting back and helping facilitate.”
The “Perfect Harmony” program is similar to a recent songwriting effort in which Coke enlisted fans of Maroon 5 to help the band write an original song in 24 hours, which streamed at MyCoke.com, and takes a page from the anthems Coke created around the FIFA World Cup.
In September, Coke will launch another music showcase with an emphasis on Hispanic teens, letting people vote for an up-and-coming bilingual artist or band that will win the chance to perform with an established artist live onstage.
Once the “Idol” song bows during the finale, Coke will work with publisher EMI to release the track across various platforms, and is exploring ways to use the song commercially in ads and other formats.
“Music has the power to bring people together, which is evidenced every week by the millions of fans who watch ‘American Idol,’?” said Stuart Kronauge, VP of Coca-Cola trademark brands, Coca-Cola North America. “Music has always been a part of our brand voice and with this program we’re moving to a whole new level of integration.”