By: Stefan Kolle 

Coca-Cola has launched a contest to design a virtual experience vending machine. Also see the press release here. My co-contributor Karl Long already wrote a fairly positive review, but I'm afraid I have to add some negative points of view here.

I have very mixed feelings about this one. One the one hand, this contest has a lot of the 'right' elements - community involvement, ask people to create something in an environment where they are already used to self-creation, let the final results be used by everyone for free inside SL. The concept of a virtual experience vending machine is nicely creative. Also they opened it up beyond SL residents, by simply asking for designs, not acutally fully built machines. 

However, there are a few pretty negative points to be made. The same corporate reflexes seem to be kicking in that made Coke miss the point completely on the initial mentos/diet coke craze, and in the second round corporate sanitize (corporitize?) it.

There are absolutely horrific contest rules attached. Especially the copyright clause caused an immediate gag reflex for me:

By participating in this Contest each person making a submission irrevocably and in perpetuity assigns to Coca-Cola all worldwide right, title and interest in and to the submission and to all intellectual property created thereby and arising out of the submission, including without limitation the object created for Second Life from the winning entry. Ownership of the submission and that intellectual property vests totally in Coca-Cola. In respect of copyrights, the assignment shall be effective for the entire duration of the copyrights and shall include, but not be limited to, all rights to derivative works, digital and material. Each person making a submission waives, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law, all rights of attribution and integrity for specific works created in respect of all marketing, advertising and commercial uses thereof. 

In other words, whatever you submit, Coke can do with it what it wants. Imagine your submission being so wonderfully creatively designed, that Coca-Cola decides to use it as their full corporate identity make-over. You wouldn't get anything. You might not even be the winner of the contest... 

There are other elements in there that are clearly the product of a corporate lawyer gone wild. Rebang has a good post pointing out further problems, such as the winner having to pay the taxes on his winning airplane ticket... Karl Long also makes a good point about the marketing-speak used versus how we actually feel about the brand.

Come on Coke - we actually love your brand, and love to engage with it. Engage with us in a open and friendly way, and don't let corporate reflexes get in the way.

Let down your hair, and come out to play!

Update:
There is a discussion on this topic over at Greg Verdino's blog, with Crayon explaining a bit more about why they structured the contest the way they did. Some very valid points, that show how traditional corporate and intellectual property laws conflict with the realities of social media.

Original post: http://businessandgames.com/blog/2007/04/coke_virtual_thirst_a_for_effo.html 

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