CLOSE-UP: GLOBAL BRIEF - Coca-Cola’s quandary leaves agencies in the dark/The soft drink giant seems unsure about what it must do next, Jade Garrett says

It looks like there has never been a better time to be on Coca-Cola’s ad agency roster. The global drink giant’s in-house agency, Edge Creative, has just announced that it is closing its doors, leaving up to pounds 100 million worth of business on the loose (Campaign, last week).

It looks like there has never been a better time to be on

Coca-Cola’s ad agency roster. The global drink giant’s in-house agency,

Edge Creative, has just announced that it is closing its doors, leaving

up to pounds 100 million worth of business on the loose (Campaign, last

week).



Any one of Coca-Cola’s retained agencies - including McCann-Erickson,

Leo Burnett, Publicis, D’Arcy, Wieden & Kennedy, Bartle Bogle Hegarty,

Leagas Delaney, Mother, Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper or Doner Cardwell Hawkins

- could be in for a hefty slice of the action.



But calls to some of these roster agencies quickly reveals a growing

lack of patience with Coca-Cola as it keeps its agencies in the dark

about its plans, leaving some to conclude it has little idea itself what

the future will hold.



’The local client in London doesn’t know much and Atlanta isn’t much

better,’ a source at one of Coca-Cola’s retained agencies says. ’London

didn’t even know that the story about the Edge was appearing. Coca-Cola

has been flitting between a local and global policy for some time and is

still awarding its business both ways.’



Some agencies are guessing that the decision about future agency

appointments will come down to the relationship that individual

Coca-Cola marketers have with their agencies rather than any formal

pitch process.



This would make a welcome change for agencies that are used to pitching

for individual assignments. The ’enjoy’ campaign was briefed to eight

different agencies worldwide before it was finally awarded to Burnetts

in Chicago and the Edge.



Coca-Cola’s method has always been to select the best from several

agency presentations with the one consolation that the agencies get paid

regardless of whether their work is eventually used.



The ’enjoy’ campaign was designed specifically to be adaptable in local

markets. The ads, which broke at the beginning of the year, also marked

the comeback of Coca-Cola’s trademark glass bottle, which is now being

reintroduced to supermarket shelves in the US.



One of the TV spots features a woman leaving a train while she thinks

about the good times she’s had with friends drinking Coca-Cola. Other

executions associate the soft drink experience with waterfalls, kissing

and tasting a snowflake.



Despite imposing ’enjoy’ around the world, Coca-Cola took the decision

some time ago to give its local offices more autonomy. In doing so, it

went against the trend of international FMCG marketers who are

increasingly shifting their advertising budgets towards global

campaigns.



’The organisation wasn’t working from a centralised standpoint,’ an

agency chief says. ’It meant that Coca-Cola was being very slow to react

from Atlanta to some of its public relations issues such as the

contamination crisis in Europe.’



The shift rendered the Edge pretty much surplus to requirements as its

launch was intended to spearhead a more global approach to

advertising.



No-one is swallowing Coca-Cola’s story that the Edge’s demise was solely

because the agency principals themselves wanted to move on.



Shelly Hochron, Len Fink and Jack Harrower, the former Creative Artists

Agency executives, set up the Edge in 1995 to handle ’Always

Coca-Cola’.



The change in strategy was the idea of Charles Frenette, the company’s

former global marketing chief, and one that is being endorsed by

Coca-Cola’s new chief executive, Douglas Daft.