CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE - Mother's main hurdle is to cut through Coke's UK ads clutter

Mother's take on the 'Real' campaign must speak for itself, Rachel Gardner says.

When Coca-Cola revealed its new advertising strategy "think local, act local" the global ad industry knew a shake-up was on its way.

More than three years later, Mother last week was appointed to handle advertising in the UK for the Classic Coke brand.

The creative shop has already injected some British fizz into Lilt, Oasis, Dr Pepper and Schweppes, so it seems logical that the company would want some of that local energy for its flagship brand.

The "think local, act local" philosophy, thought-up by the chairman and chief executive, Douglas Daft, was inspired by the realisation that what seemed like a good idea at its Atlanta headquarters might not translate across Europe, South America or Africa. Coca-Cola had come to accept that one size does not necessarily fit all.

However, the company's way of acting local is limited, for not only does it use a multitude of international ads at the same time as its local executions, it also uses a global strapline. Mother's brief is to develop a UK version of the global "Real" campaign that launched in the US earlier this year using celebrities including the actress Courtney Cox-Arquette. It has been running in the UK since the start of summer.

Coca-Cola is circumspect with the press, so comment was restricted to: "All we can say at this stage is that we're bringing to life the Coca-Cola 'Real' strategy here in Great Britain.

"It will be for a British audience and with the authenticity that we know is right for the UK."

"Real", which after many millions invested in market research took over from "Always" and "Enjoy", was originally created by WPP's Berlin Cameron/Red Cell in New York and marked a distinct change in style for the Coke brand.

It has an edge to it and it infers less wholesome values than previously, while reflecting genuine moments in life and the natural role the brand plays. It was the strategy that snatched the US Coke account from the grip of the Interpublic-owned McCann-Erickson New York.

The French account and the Singapore and Vietnam assignments were soon leaving McCann, and now it seems that the same is occurring in London.

The slow, but steady, loosening of McCann's international grip on the business again echoes Daft's much-vaunted strategy. Smaller local shops have replaced the network in a variety of markets.

The days of the wholesome values traditionally associated with Coke's advertising seem numbered with the Mother appointment. The Mother partner Andy Medd says: "Appointing Mother isn't often a sign that you want to stick to the status quo, and our work on Schweppes, Lilt and Dr Pepper are all examples of that.

"However, when it comes to Coke, with a clear strategy such as "Real", the challenge isn't to come up with anything new, rather to be better at communicating what's there. Hopefully the work will speak for itself when it comes out."

Change is needed, however. The campaign is set to launch early next year and it must work hard to improve the Coke brand's saliency in the UK.

Although there is still no serious rival in the cola market - Pepsi has failed to threaten Coke's position - it is continually fighting for share against all other drinks ranging from water, to coffee, to lemonade. The trouble is, brand recognition for Coca-Cola is much weaker than it once was.

A brand recognition survey conducted by Martin Hamblin GfK recorded Heinz as the most remembered brand in the UK, with the world's biggest-selling soft drink in sixth place.

Its stature has no doubt suffered from the wide range of ads, some local but mostly international, used to support it in the UK. Coca-Cola has failed to supply UK consumers with a single, strong ad campaign with a unifying message.

For when you think of Coke's advertising there are a number of contrasting images that immediately spring to mind. There's the long-running spot with the polar bears, and the Christmas spot "holidays are coming", with a very US feel. We've had the TV ad starring "Leggsy" from Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam for the 2002 World Cup, which used an animated style that set it apart from any previous Coca-Cola campaign. Then there was the McCann "mower man" spot in cinemas. More recently, just to add to the confusion, Mis-Teeq, the girl band from London endorsed Coke's "TXT for Music" promotion.

The marital life of the Cox-Arquettes, under the "Real" banner, rounded off the mix of styles.

Coke tends to glue a single-word slogan at the end of each execution and expects that to deliver a unified message. For Mother's UK ads to restore Coke's UK brand, Coca-Cola will have to drop some of the foreign and promotional clutter it employs and use Mother's version of the "Real" campaign as a skeleton for all of its UK activity.

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