CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/CHARLOTTE OADES - Coke GB's marketing manager casts her net wide. Can Charlotte Oades tap in to a local loyalty for Coke? Francesca Newland writes

By FRANCESCA NEWLAND, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 23 February 2001 12:00AM

There is not much point in revealing personal details about Charlotte Oades, the marketing director of Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland.

There is not much point in revealing personal details about Charlotte Oades, the marketing director of Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland.

The fact is she has got so many agencies on the Coca-Cola roster that a large chunk of Campaign's readership has already met her.

But for those of you who haven't, she has a softly spoken manner that belies how tough and efficient she is. Oades arrived in the UK last summer, having been Coca-Cola's division marketing director of Asia Pacific based in Australia, and has been busy ever since.

Her task is to 'think local, act local', the new approach to marketing instituted by Douglas Daft, Coca-Cola's chairman and chief executive appointed at the beginning of 2000.

This has involved sweeping change in Coca-Cola's UK advertising arrangements.

Soul was handed Fanta along with some Coca-Cola promotional work, while Mother is to handle Dr Pepper and the teen juice-drink Alive, as well as having its existing relationship with Lilt extended. Diet Coke was put out to pitch and Wieden & Kennedy was reappointed, while Sprite wasn't put out to pitch and remains at Lowe Lintas. TBWA/London continues to handle Oasis.

There's more. Oades found time to review Coca-Cola's media account, historically pounds 30 million but expected to rise, and handed non-TV buying and all planning to BBJ. TV buying remained with the incumbent Universal McCann.

And the reviews haven't finished yet. Schweppes requires an agency; Powerade will shortly launch in the UK; and Malvern Water, Kia Ora and Canada Dry are all braced for Oades' second round of pitches. 'Watch this space,' she teases.

Oades' whirlwind of appointments has taken place in a matter of months and in March the fruits of her labour will be already appearing. Alive, Powerade and a lemon-flavour Fanta will all launch, Oasis will relaunch with new packaging, and the Coke auction will kick off with a campaign through Soul.

Oades is a strong advocate of using diversified media. Although budgets for big TV campaigns are available, she is backing alternative ways to talk to consumers.

Diet Coke is doing a tie-up with Bridget Jones' Diary, which will involve a short sequel being available in multipacks. The company has also chosen to launch its energy drink, Burn, with only a viral marketing campaign to support it.

At the time, the significance of the ongoing UK reviews was thrown into some confusion by a simultaneous pan-European pitch for the flagship Coca-Cola brand and the appointment of Interpublic to handle global brand strategy for the company. Both moves appeared to directly undermine Daft's pronouncements on local strategy, yet, in fact they're designed to complement it.

Publicis was appointed to produce a Coke campaign that local European markets could use should they find their local marketing agencies weren't up to the task. 'There are a huge number of markets across Europe without the great London-style agencies,' Oades says.

She goes on to explain IPG's appointment: 'It was taken on as a consultant for the overall creative process. These are global brands with global values. With lots of brands working locally, IPG's task is to make sure everyone is working to the same values.'

The Publicis and IPG appointments led observers to believe Coca-Cola was merely paying lip-service to the local strategy and that its Atlanta headquarters' grip on local activity was as strong as it always had been. But Oades is clear that Atlanta did not sign off her appointments and she points out that 'layers were removed from the top of Atlanta because the action is at a local level'.

The removal of the layers has also permitted the speed with which Oades has been able to act.

So while every other multinational is centralising its advertising into global networks, Coca-Cola is spreading its thinly between several local hotshops. Such a move comes at a cost. As every advertiser knows, big global campaigns save money. So what has Coca-Cola perceived that the rest of the commercial world hasn't?

Oades states it simply: 'Doing it on a local level is more expensive but what about the opportunity costs? If you want to build very deep relations with consumers the only way is to have local insights.' She is particularly proud of the 'Britishness' in Soul's new work for the Coke auction.

Coca-Cola has an enviable heritage and is the world's most widely recognised brand. The 'think local, act local' strategy is designed to maintain that status. But it is the company's enormous ambition that is most likely driving the expensive initiative. Oades points out that despite its numerous brands Coca-Cola still only controls 9 per cent of the UK soft-drinks market. To move on from there takes the kind of investment and innovation that Oades and her team are willing and able to put into place.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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