Lowe to lose £9m Diet Coke account to VCCP

Lowe is losing its £9 million Diet Coke business, ending what is believed to have been an increasingly difficult relationship between the agency and the brand's marketing chiefs.

The account is being switched to Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest, which has been steadily consolidating its position on the Coca-Cola roster.

The switch leaves Sprite as the last remaining Coca-Cola brand at Lowe in the UK.

At VCCP, the Diet Coke business will complement the agency's existing assignments on Coke's fruit drink brand, Capri-Sun, and the global creative account for Appletise, which is marketed and distributed by Coca-Cola Enterprises in the UK.

Coca-Cola's decision to make the switch follows a problematic period for Diet Coke, whose sales have been hit by poor summer weather and heavy discounting.

But while Coca-Cola has been under pressure from the major supermarkets to put serious advertising support behind Diet Coke, Lowe is understood to have had a hard time cracking the brief. There have also been reports of chemistry problems between agency and client.

"The Diet Coke client was looking for a great campaign and found it difficult to come to terms with Lowe's confrontational way of working," an industry source said. The agency had handled the business since the summer of 2004, when it took over from Wieden & Kennedy.

Diet Coke's departure also comes in the wake of the resignation earlier this year of the Lowe managing director, Jeremy Bowles, who was the key manager on the account. He is now a partner at WCRS.

Lowe's most recent significant advertising for Diet Coke launched in February, when it aired a new TV spot. The commercial featured a parade of shop mannequins ending up in compromising positions and the line: "Must be a Diet Coke thing."

Launched in the UK 21 years ago, Diet Coke was a pioneer in the diet soft drinks sector. The sub brand and its variants now account for more than 40 per cent of Coca-Cola brand sales in Britain.