The truth is the Happiness Factory is too large to be contained by a single site. The HF3 site does house the main experience, but we extended the campaign so that it could live wherever users chose to interact with it.
Most ad campaigns have a shelf life of a few months. A year, at the most. When we got the chance to work on Happiness Factory, it was going into its third year as one of Coca-Cola’s most successful campaigns in history. In short, we were being trusted with something special.
We faced the challenge of all sequels: Stay true to the original, but make it better. So we took a look at what the Happiness Factory was, what the message needed to say, and all the things we wished we could do in that space. We didn’t really set out to make a site. We set out to tell a story, and make it entertaining. The result is HF3.
Inside every Coke Machine is the Happiness Factory, the magical world where euphoria and flavor are bottled and chilled before being delivered to the outside. Coca-Cola asked for an interactive experience that encapsulated the Happiness Factory mythos while exploring the “physical uplift” found in every bottle of Coke: that burst of joy, refreshment and energy you get with every sip.
We pored through piles of videos, graphics and descriptions of the Happiness Factory world. We immersed ourselves in the Happiness Factory storyline and made sure that what we were creating moved it forward without altering it in any way. That was another reason for taking a “behind the scenes” look at a world that is already very much behind the scenes—it kept us from adding elements that might not be Happiness canon.
Our commitment to maintaining the visual beauty of the Happiness Factory in our games is a result of the current culture. Gaming isn’t a nerdy pastime anymore, and we were determined to treat it with the respect it deserves. Part of the richness of the Happiness Factory campaign comes from it’s level of detail. We were given access to the original renders and models from the previous commercials, and dedicated an entire team of 3D animators to the project. Backgrounds were rendered first, and then touched up in Photoshop. All the characters and sprites were 3D animations inserted into Flash. The end result was an experience on par with the Happiness Factory commercials, and imagery that remained true to the brand.
In the process of creating polished visuals and gameplay, there were two production hurdles we had to overcome. The first was file size, and the second was memory leakage. Oddly enough the two issues were related.
The 3D animations produced for the site were exported as PNG sequences and brought into Flash, which also created huge file sizes. This allowed us the flexibility to run the animation timelines in forward and reverse. Many of the animations were optimized frame by frame in order to bring down file size.
But it appeared that the memory leakage was being caused by those same PNG sequences. After extensive testing we replaced some of the sequences with FLV videos on the timeline and alleviated the memory issues.
The most common jobs had been translated into games in previous Happiness incarnations, but we wanted to give viewers a look into what went on behind the scenes—the less visible, but highly vital tasks that the Workers perform day in and day out so we can all keep drinking that delicious Coke. And making those individual tasks into games gave us the perfect opportunity to talk about physical uplift without interrupting the experience for users or altering the campaign’s mythos.
Like any execution, we had to be cognizant of the audience we were talking to. We needed to create an experience that would be fun for any gamer. From the casual “Bejeweld” player to the “Grand Theft Auto” master who explored every possible instance in the game. Even talking about gameplay could be challenging at times. It took us days to work out “Soda Pop and Lock” internally but once we built a working model, the intuitive gameplay meant anyone could start playing it immediately.
We created games that, while fun, had simple “twitch” controls that any player would immediately recognize. Multiple Coke bottle “power-ups” allowed us to demonstrate the physical uplift while offering a more forgiving experience for casual gamers. Additionally while we intended the tasks to be played in a certain order, we offered a “Training Mode” that allowed players to jump into whichever task they felt like playing at the time. This way we ensured that every part of the site was accessible to the casual gamers.
We even built in hidden items and unlockable content to entice and reward the hardcore gamers. These ranged from the simple wallpaper and ringtone to iron-on shirt transfers and printable goggles. For those users who wanted to go deeper inside The Factory, we created multiple difficulty levels with more challenges and less power-ups. The true gamers could earn better stuff by playing in higher difficulties and finding the hidden items within each level.
The Factory itself exists across a variety of locales, and many of the characters keep to their own sections. Since the Workers lend a hand everywhere they were the perfect protagonists for the experience. By focusing on these happy helpers, we could travel from the Frozen Chillberg Labs to Kissy Puppy Pens without breaking canon.
Workers are the blue-skinned, long-necked, hard-working-but-more-than-a-little-clumsy, unsung heroes of the Happiness Factory. They’re the most populous species in the place, and take care of any number of odd jobs. We were fascinated by them- what did they do on their day off? What’s their favorite color? And where do they learn all those dance moves?
By creating games around these questions, we were developing a story that the user discovered through experience. Cutscenes told major parts of the story as well, introducing each task and highlighting various aspects of the Worker’s personality and daily doings along the way.
A Larger Experience
The truth is the Happiness Factory is too large to be contained by a single site. The HF3 site does house the main experience, but we extended the campaign so that it could live wherever users chose to interact with it. Currently, people can challenge their friends at tasks in real-time over MSN Messenger, or download the Happiness Factory Mortar Man game to their iPhone.
Particularly in the online space, agencies are responsible for creating more than advertisements- they also have to entertain. That was our goal with this project, and it’s been a pleasure and privilege to lend a hand in The Happiness Factory.
About the author, Juan Morales
As a Creative Director at Sapient, Morales leads account teams of designers, copywriters and other creative professionals working on interactive multi-channel campaigns for some of the largest brands in the world.
Morales began his career as a graffiti artist and has been able to translate that passion for art and expression into a successful advertising career. Before joining Sapient earlier this year, he was a senior partner and executive creative director at iChameleon. Previously, he helped create the interactive department at Crispin Porter & Bogusky, where he was one of the original members of its interactive team. During his tenure at Crispin, Morales worked with numerous name brands such as Burger King, Ikea, Taco Bell, Toyota and DeBeers and received industry recognition for his efforts, including winning the Grand Prix award at Cannes as well as a Cannes Gold Cyber Lion.
About the author, James Allen
A Creative Director at Sapient, Allen has experience in all digital and web design facets. Working on the forefront of the interactive boom, he understands and digests the medium daily. Prior to Sapient, Allen was an associate creative director at iChameleon where he worked with brands like Coke, Taco Bell, Virgin Mobile and Guinness. Allen is a pop culture enthusiast, a surfer and an entrepreneur.