When Benjamin Hallam received the brief for Coca-Cola Life, he knew his team would need to come up with something different.

As Group Account Director at Ogilvy Australia, Ben is part of a team that comes up with new and exciting ways to advertise Coke products. It had been almost a decade since the company had launched anything quite so big under the iconic Coca-Cola brand. The launch of Coca-Cola Life - with 35% less sugar and kilojoules compared to Coca-Cola, thanks to the natural sweetness of stevia - is the company’s first major beverage to use stevia and Ben realised he’d need something surprising.

“We knew that the product itself would be quite surprising from a consumer’s point of view,” Ben explained. “We thought we also need to be surprising with how we launch it.”

Where, the team asked, would be the most surprising place to launch a major new product? The Pilbara? Maybe. Somewhere outside Darwin? Perhaps. Still, they weren’t quite unexpected enough.

“Initially, we looked at Antarctica as a first attempt. We thought that that was a pretty surprising place to land. But there were a few logistical issues around that,” laughed Ben.

Eventually, the team settled on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, somewhere between Australia, Vanuatu and New Zealand – Norfolk Island.

With a population of around 1300 on around 34-square kilometres, it’s safe to say Norfolk Island isn’t the first stop on most product launch campaigns. So, Ogilvy and Coca-Cola decided to make the isolated community the first to sample Coke Life.

Apart from its relative obscurity, Ben was particularly attracted to Norfolk’s natural beauty. “We decided to go with Norfolk Island about two and a half weeks before the shoot,” he recalled. “But when we got there it was really lovely; the scenery on the whole island was absolutely beautiful. It’s really lush and green.”

And, as planned, the locals were pretty taken aback by the arrival of the 15-strong production crew. “In a town with only 1200 people, everyone knew we were coming. Every cafe we’d go to, they’d ask whether we were the guys from Coke,” said Ben. “It was the first time that anybody had shot an ad on the island, so everybody came down to see how it all worked.”

Not everything, however, went according to plan: “Norfolk’s right between Vanuatu and New Zealand, so we were right in the middle of where Cyclone Pam looked like it was headed,” Ben recalled. “On the morning of the shoot, we woke up and it was just torrential rain.”

The team made the call to go ahead with the shoot come rain, hail or cyclone. Thankfully, the four-seasons-in-a-day nature of Norfolk Island worked in their favour. “We were just lucky enough that the rain stopped about ten minutes before we started shooting, then by about 4pm we were back to beautiful sunshine,” said Ben, audibly relieved.

The biggest surprise on the day, however, was the local’s response to Coca-Cola Life. “The best reaction I saw was one guy who wouldn’t believe it wasn’t Coke Red,” laughed Ben. “You’ve got to be happy with that.”