The new James Bond movie is quickly coming up on us (at least here in North America) and I have to say, I’m pretty excited. The last few Bonds have, to me, been a lot more fun and true to-life-seeming (at least as true-to-life as any dashing secret agent with an actual license to kill can be). Sure, Pierce Brosnan was okay, but he was a little polished for me, which is saying something when you figure I was first introduced to the world of 007 by that master of the semi-sexualized eyebrow lift, Roger Moore. Yes, Connery is the still the greatest – time and history have a way of freezing crowns in place – but I would submit that Mr. Daniel Craig is right up there, and will eventually surpass even the gruffly good Scotsman.
But what is it about Bond that keeps him so relevant? Why is this still such a fun series to enjoy even fifty years on? I can only think it’s because the films present a world in which most men (and more than a few women) wish they could inhabit at least temporarily. Tough, hard and strong – intelligent and desired. What guy doesn’t want this? And missions that keep you moving and doing constantly? That’s the whole handbook for being a guy right there. Darn right I’ll be in the theatre stretching my waistline with popcorn and soda, even as I dream that Bond’s pectorals are actually my own.
The Bond films are legendary in their scale. And they only seem to grow with each successive event. Skyfall alone was pegged well north of $100 million dollars to make PLUS an additional $200 million spent to market it. And before starting in on the whole “do you know how many poor children you could feed with all that money?” kind of whinging that traditionally accompanies this sort of revelation, you must realize that the money spent was paid to actual people that do jobs, earn money and then proceed to feed and clothe their children and families. Not all good works are of the obvious kind. Still, with budgets this big, producers have little choice but to look into other sources of revenue. Hello advertising.
Skyfall has a ton of big-deal sponsors, together contributing upwards of $45 million (a record) to attach their respective brand to this latest adventure. Aston Martin, Heineken, Jaguar, Land Rover, Omega, Sony, Swarovski, Tom Ford, Virgin Atlantic and more are all big deal, luxury-type names that seem quite at home in James’ rather outsized hero existence. Except for one sponsor that is – Coke Zero. Now I don’t know how the heck they’re going to work Coke Zero into the plot smoothly “No, Moneypenny not that diet chum you drink. I’ll take a Coke Zero instead. Now, where exactly did you put my pants?” But so what? If Coke is willing to pony up the dough to make the movie that much more awesome for me to watch and enjoy then I say “thanks.” But they went and did even more than that. And I think I love Coke Zero for it.
Coke Zero set up a promotion in a London train station that was nothing short of brilliant. There is video (thank you internet) and so we get to see what happened ourselves. In the station, the Coke folks set up a soda vending machine for riders to purchase a Coke Zero. At first glance, nothing special nor all that exciting seems to be at stake. It’s just a pop machine with a young violin-playing busker located next to it. But when you go to buy a drink, the magic starts. As the consumer attempts a purchase the machine asks if they want to win tickets to the Skyfall premier. Those saying “yes” are then asked to enter their name into the machine via a giant touchscreen keypad. When they do, the machine immediately announces that they now have 90 seconds to collect their tickets from another machine on platform 7, which is a fair distance away. To add to it, the clock then starts ticking down. And just to drive home the point even further the busker next to the machine has already started sawing away on her instrument playing the famous Bond theme music.
The now instantly engaged consumer realizes free stuff is at stake and takes off as fast as they can to collect their winnings. What they don’t know is that Coke Zero has absolutely littered the station with “agents” of their own, all charged with making the consumer’s accepted mission to platform 7 a real Bond-type challenge. There are crowds that won’t move, runners going the wrong way on escalators, big panes of glass crossing in front at the wrong time, boxes of oranges tossed in the way, falling luggage, strangers calling out to you and all the while – wherever the person goes - Bond music is being played live by various buskers, performers and street musicians. To keep context (as the player runs) they even see various lovely women holding iPads showing the seconds counting down in real time. It’s a full-on mini-Bond adventure being lived by average consumers for 90-seconds at a time.
Finally, when the poor sod makes it to the machine in question and officially “tags up” a request comes up on screen that they must now sing the theme to Bond if they want to get their tickets. Voices warble and voices crack but come out they do, as the surrounding crowd of extras quickly join in – making this a promo stunt that would have to have been as much fun to pull off as it was to participate in. What a rush.
So, while you may decry the commercialization of all that is sacred and good, deny to me that this little endeavour is not a whimsically fun and truly inspired bit of consumer outreach that brings the joy and escapism of a fictional superhero to everyday souls. Coke Zero actually lets you be James Bond. The only thing that could make it better is if actually drinking the stuff led to the kind of body Craig has. I’m betting no, but what’s movie popcorn without something to wash it down? It’s only one calorie, right?