Steve Barrett, editor of Media Week
Steve Barrett, editor of Media Week
A view from Steve Barrett

Happiness Factory offers a vision of media's future

Media Week's annual Media 360 conference took place last week at the Celtic Manor Resort in South Wales, with 250 top-level delegates congregating to discuss the big media and advertising issues of the day. Media 360 is all about the holy triumvirate of client/advertiser, agency and media owner: how those three elements operate and how they interact with each other to their mutual advantage.

It is also about the blurring of lines between the three elements of the advertising mix and how each has to change the way it works in the modern media environment.

Keynote speaker Jonathan Mildenhall, vice-president of global advertising and creative excellence at Coca-Cola, introduced the concept of trans-media storytelling. It is best illustrated by Coca-Cola's evolution of branded entertainment to the invention of a virtual world represented by the Happiness Factory. Happiness Factory became the highest-rated ad in Coke's history, gives consumers multiple entry points to the virtual world and provides revenue streams that can be exploited through the likes of comics, books and films.

Mildenhall dubbed it the world's most fertile and lucrative advertising platform, but noted that this requires agencies to think in a very different way. Coca-Cola's creator of its Happiness Factory fictional world, Starlight Runner, invents characters and thinks 10 years ahead, whereas media and ad agencies typically confine themselves to an 18-month vision.

Laurence Green of Fallon, the agency responsible for the excellent Sony Bravia and Skoda campaigns, joined media agency Starcom's Howard Watson and Cadbury Dairy Milk brand manager Lucy Evans to explain the iconic Gorilla campaign. Cadbury also thinks like a content producer, through its Glass and a Half Full Productions banner.

Green bemoaned the vested interests of traditional media owners that he says produce blinkered thinking and sniping. Brands have to utilise free media - or new media - but should also exploit the unique advantages of traditional channels, such as the 7.5 million-viewer end-of-series Big Brother TV slot that Starcom booked to launch the Gorilla campaign. There was much food for thought that will be explored further in next week's Media Week, and in a Media Week TV highlights show.