Thu February 28, 2013
In Depressed Spain, ATMs That Dispense Free Cash
Originally published on Fri March 1, 2013 12:53 pm
Fancy some free cash? Don't even bother to insert your ATM card.
People in Spain thought it was a joke — or a fraud — when a video popped up on YouTube showing what looks like a normal ATM, offering 100 euros ($131) for free — without a bank card. It seemed too good to be true.
There was one catch: Recipients had to promise to share the money. A digital menu on the machine suggests possible uses, such as "hire a storyteller for the kids in your neighborhood" or "buy diapers for a pregnant woman."
It turns out the ATM video was a stunt by Coca-Cola, part of the company's "Open Happiness" campaign, which also debuted a hidden camera-themed ad in the U.S. during the Super Bowl.
Dubbed the "ATM of Happiness," the machine aims to spread a little goodwill, and much-needed cash, in crisis-stricken Spain.
Spain is suffering a third consecutive year of recession. Its jobless rate tops 26 percent, and more than double that for people under 30. But amid such hardship, heart-warming gestures have emerged — like the orchestra flash mob we profiled last month, serenading people at a Madrid unemployment office with the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun."
The "ATM of Happiness" may be a corporate ad campaign, but it does have Spaniards smiling and reaching out to help their neighbors. Coca-Cola made a video showing customers' bewildered expressions, apparently recorded through a camera embedded in the fake ATM.
"In the same era as bad banks, the ATM of Happiness is born," a message scrolls across the screen near the start of the video.
Then the short film follows some of the recipients, 100 euros richer.
"We don't know what they did with the money, but some of them shared their experience with us," another message says.
It's followed by clips purported to be from some of the recipients, filming themselves doing good deeds with their newfound cash.
One grainy sequence shows a man placing a red tricycle, with a white bow tied on top, outside the door of a family with a child. He rings the doorbell and runs. Two other men haul a dozen basketballs into a community sports facility, and lob them one by one into a yard where children are playing empty-handed. Another man treats everyone on the block to dinner.
A stranger gives two theater tickets to an elderly couple sitting on a park bench. A woman bursts into tears as a flamenco band serenades her at her apartment door. .
The footage appears to be of ordinary people, but it's unclear when and where it was recorded — or whether the people are actors. NPR has called Coca-Cola to find out where and when the video was shot. But for now, it's going viral, so we thought we'd share it with you.