There is not much point in revealing personal details about
Charlotte Oades, the marketing director of Coca-Cola Great Britain and
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
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
There's more. Oades found time to review Coca-Cola's media account,
historically £30 million but expected to rise, and handed non-TV
buying and all planning to BBJ. TV buying remained with the incumbent
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
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
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.