Although Pepsi arrived in China after Coca-Cola, due to aggressive policies focused on joint ventures with local brands, it was able to gain an upper-hand in the market; effectively establishing a Chinese identity for itself. 
The perception among bottlers (a crucial element in the beverage business) was that, whilst Pepsi was in touch with the nuances of Chinese business culture, Coca-Cola believed itself to be the large and conquering American brand. To regain the ground lost to its competitor, in 2012 Coca-Cola launched its first annual conference; a 3 day event in the island of Sanya, aimed at building bridges within the local industry. 

In order to be successful, it was crucial that Coca-Cola reassured the bottlers, but also to actively involve and engage them through the conference.


The agency had already established basic functionalities of the event, however it lacked a coherent narrative. 
Once in charge, I directed the project towards a new path. The guests came from all corners of the country, from remote rural areas to 1st tier cities, as well as various other countries. In order to connect with all of them, (besides the essential juxtapositions between East and West and between tradition and innovation), I needed to create iconic images and metaphors: 
a universally familiar setting where guests could interact.

The continuing battle between Coca-Cola and Pepsi lead me to The Art of War by Sun Tzu; an obvious connection point among guests due to its prevalence in Chinese culture, as well as in many international business schools. However, to present Coca-Cola’s marketing strategy, I had to moved away from the war and weapons commonly associated with the theme due to the obvious clash with the playful image of the brand. 


The key was Chinese chess; a game that both used the principles found in The Art of War and portrayed the playful and friendly image that the company valued. I made the pitch and the agency was awarded the project and provided a budget of $3 million. 
I invited the bottlers to attend the event using the metaphor of the “message in a bottle”, enclosing the invitation within the iconic Coca-Cola glass bottle.
I believed this to be a playful request for help from Coke, while being related with the sub-tropical location.

At the beginning we introduced the guests the core idea of the event via the main conference; where the company planned to reveal their general strategy to the bottles. Here the modern and ancient came crashing together: the main stage was set up to resemble a Zen garden and the walls were covered in bamboo trees with quotes from Sun Tzu’s book projected over them. The green projections over the bamboo produced an almost ‘matrix’ effect, whilst retaining a natural feel. Behind the stage were large screens that could be adjusted according to the events’ needs. Under my supervision, soundtracks were produced for the event by a sound design studio.
The combination of music and design created an atmosphere of calm, concentration and harmony.

Together with a screen writer, we produced a script whereby Sun Tzu (impersonated by an actor) came back from the past to assist Coca-Cola in their business strategy. Sitting opposite the CEO for Coca-Cola in China, Sun Tzu began a dialogue that revealed a strategy for the future of the company and its bottlers. 

We projected images in the background to support the conversation, using 5 pieces found on the Chinese chessboard to represent the 5 key marketing platforms of the company. Pieces moved along the board (market), following a global strategy that incorporated principles of attack and defence in order to win (against competitors). The conversation ended with a Chinese tea ceremony, replacing the tea with coke, thereby adding a contemporary twist to an old ritual.
We then reproduced our contemporary take of the Chinese chessboard throughout the conference, creating 5 different spaces to expose the guests to each of Coca-Cola’s marketing platforms. Indeed each chess piece was intended to introduce a different platform, as such, we studied the history of the game before selecting the most appropriate pieces, producing animations, music and presentation design for each of them. 
I closely monitored the development of each animation from drawing storyboards and defining mood boards to customising soundtracks and designs. Influenced by the square grid in which Chinese chess is played, I built the “best practices” show area where guest could walk past marketing objects and materials from various emerging markets. The grid blocks were raised from the ground; becoming tridimensional structures that supported and displayed the materials and marketing objects. I reviewed 3D simulations and liaised with various vendors to create and ship the structures from Shanghai to Sanya.
Note: Due to the sensitive marketing informations and a non-disclosure agreement, I cannot outshow the final animations; I can, however, show you a "pre-final stage" version. This can give you an idea of the visual language, animation style and music used in these videos. 
A pillar of the conference was interaction. 

Each guest was given an iPad engraved with the Coca-Cola conference logo. The iPad had a pre-installed app designed for the conference that, among other things, allowed guests to connect via the intranet chat system and interactive forums that allowed them to post comments and questions to each other and directly on the large screens during the conference. 
I defined the UX and UI of the app together with Archiive (the digital arm of the agency) and shot ‘help’ videos to minimise the interaction with the desk personnel and to speed up the registration process. As well as the iPads, guests received other items in their welcome packs, including polo shirts that I developed in conjunction with a Chinese fashion designer. 

We used the familiar Coca-Cola ribbon to wrap up the entire conference and connect the various stages and spaces of the event. Indeed the presence of the ribbon served to Coca-colize the space it was found in. 
The red ribbon ran from the first conference of the first day through to the final event of the last day; which consisted of a walk along the beach wherein guests were lead by a large red ribbon that would sometimes lift and become a shelter and refreshments area. This imagery was particularly enjoyable to generate as it portrayed a peaceful red army, marching on the white sand, visually reconnecting it to the main theme of the event. 
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Following the walk, guests attended a round table discussion with famous faces from Asia’s business scene, such as Li Shufu (chairman of Geely automotive and Volvo China),  Liu Chuanzhi (founder of Lenovo), Frank Ning (Asia Business Leader of the Year and chairman of COFCO Corporation),  Christopher Dale Pratt (chairman of Swire Pacific and former chairman of Cathay Pacific Airways), and Muhtar Kent (Chairman of the Board & Chief Executive Officer of The Coca-Cola Company). Participants were encouraged to engage and learn about their various stories, in the hope that they be persuaded into a more international outlook and discuss Coca-Cola’ s global strategy. ​​​​​​​
The agency was also responsible for the various celebrations that did not form part of the core events, for example, we organized a cocktail party for after guests had registered. We crafted coke inspired cocktails and invited international DJ’s to perform live. However, the most significant of these was the grand finale, Oscar-like, celebration. This was a ceremony intended to award the best bottlers of the previous year. Besides the setup, stage design and selection of celebrities hosts for the ceremony, we also designed and followed the production of the award trophies, as well as the introductory animations and soundtracks. The ceremony ended with a Chinese “dragon dance” performed by the winners of the awards and the CEO of Coca-Cola, Mr Muhtar Kent. Mr Kent declared the event was “the best Coca-Cola event ever done in Asia”, and contracted the agency to design and organise the event for the following 3 years. ​​​​​​​