The beverage company partnered with production firm Imagine Entertainment to create three short films, which are available to watch on Amazon Prime across the globe starting Wednesday.
The venture is a continuation of Coca-Cola’s Real Magic platform, which takes an experimental approach to marketing the company’s core product.
In the past year, Real Magic has focused on unusual, limited-time flavors such as Starlight, Byte and Dreamworld, which have been launched alongside digital experiences including a holographic concert and a debut in Fortnite. The Christmas Anthology is part of a new platform called Real Magic Presents.
For Coca-Cola (KO), it’s important to do more than just sell soda — the soda giant has to connect with younger consumers and build new traditions, especially as interest in sugary, carbonated soft drinks stagnates.
“We’re always exploring new ways to reach our audience,” said Selman Careaga, category president of Coca-Cola trademark, calling Christmas “a great canvas for creativity.” The anthology, he said, is “a new way to engage” with the holiday.
Coca-Cola has a history of associating itself with Christmas, so much so that the company has an FAQ page for “Did Coca-Cola create Santa Claus?” (The answer: Sort of. In 1931, the company commissioned a painting of Santa that aligns with how he is portrayed in the US today, according to the page.)
In more recent years, the company’s polar bears and brightly-lit trucks have been strongly linked with the holiday.
This year, Coke is trying something a little more high-concept.
Sentient computers and vampire love stories
After launching the Real Magic platform in 2021, Coca-Cola published a video on YouTube called “Real Magic at Christmas,” about a boy who bonds with his new neighbors by working together to build a chimney out of cardboard boxes.
This year, the short films are longer — running between 10 and 12 minutes — and more ambitious.
There’s “Alma,” which shows a single mom who has cooled on Christmas being reminded of the joy of the holiday by a sentient computer; “Les Petits Mondes De Noël,” a moody love story about two exes who reunite in Paris; and “Christmas Bites,” about a vampire who wins over his girlfriend’s family when he steps in for Santa on Christmas Eve.
A viewer wouldn’t necessarily know that these are Coca-Cola movies, except for the fact that each film features at least one character sipping a Coke.
But for the company, the shorts are about more than just product placement. “It allows us to work on content that fits into our Real Magic platform,” said Careaga.
Not your typical Hallmark films
The films are not your typical cheesy Christmas movie, and not only because they’re shorts. There are no overt love stories, fat snowflakes swirling around fake sets or ugly sweaters (at least, not too many).
The Hallmark model may be popular in the United States, but it doesn’t necessarily have global appeal, said Marc Gilbar, EVP of brands and documentaries at Imagine Entertainment.
“I mentioned Hallmark films” to members of the global team working on the project, Gilbar said. “That shorthand doesn’t mean much to someone in Spain or someone in Argentina. It’s more centered on our traditions.”
The Coca-Cola anthology is designed to appeal to a global audience. “Alma,” set in Mexico, is in Spanish, and “Les Petits Mondes De Noël,” is in French. Only “Christmas Bites” is in English.
And although these are certainly Christmas movies, they’re not overtly religious.
“Christmas means different things to different people,” Gilbar said. “The religious aspect never really came up. It was more about other traditions.”
As Coke dips its toes in film-making, rival Pepsi took another approach, partnering with “Falling for Christmas” star Lindsay Lohan to promote Pilk, or Pepsi plus milk, as a holiday tradition.