Long gone are the simpler times when you could enjoy a milkshake for what it is: delicious. All too often these days, mega-corporations feel the need to hijack our sweetest pleasures in the name of marketing. And if you're attending Coachella on April 16, you can join in on one such stunt yourself by letting a major fast-food brand camp on your Instagram feed.
Sonic Drive-In is a chain with a stronghold in the South and Midwest that's best known as the fast-food joint with the annoying commercials featuring two guys sitting and talking in a car. It's introducing—for one day only—milkshakes served in square containers that you can only "purchase" through Instagram, and only in the general vicinity of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. You don't have to pay for them, but they're asking for something in return: you have to post an Instagram of your shake.
The shakes are claimed to be the first food item designed specifically for Instagram (hence the square shape for optimal overhead shots) and come packaged in patterned wrappers designed by "Insta Designers," which double as a wild 'n' crazy background for that perfect Instagram. The shakes—which are deconstructed for maximum 'grammability—are topped with geometric patterns of chocolates and fruit, and even feature square-shaped maraschino cherries and square straws.
The square shakes were designed by chef Christine Flynn. You may know her better by her Instagram account Jacques La Merde, where she posts photos of faux haute cuisine, with elegantly plated dishes made from low-brow ingredients.
Sonic's photos of the shakes look like pastel overload, but the shakes they will be serving sound pretty all right. They're from Sonic's new fancy Creamery shake line, with flavors like dulce de leche, wildberry and lavender, bourbon brown sugar, buttered toffee, dark chocolate, and vanilla bean.
If this all seems a bit of an ordeal for a milkshake—that the lines between social media and real life are being blurred to the point of triggering alarm or nausea—get a load of this. When you order a shake through the Coachella-only advertisements that will pop up in festival-goers' Instagram feeds, they'll be able to deliver it directly to you because they know where you are.
"Using a geo-fence overlaid on the festival, the brand will be able to find the people who order and deliver the shakes directly to them," wrote industry mag AdWeek, which is calling the project "delightful" and "awesome."
"Coachella's a cool place for it," Margaret Johnson, the creative director of Goodby Sylverstein & Partners, the ad agency that came up with the idea, told Adweek. "It's full of young people, for one thing. And it's in the middle of the desert, so what better place to order up an ice-cold, yummy shake?"
It is a pretty impressive set-up for a one-day event, one that no doubt took a lot of time and effort. But if Sonic seriously wants to pull out all the stops and go all-in on the "hip to be a square" thing, they'll really do Coachella attendees a favor and bust out the big guns to book Huey Lewis and The News as a surprise guest.