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

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

handle Oasis.

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

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


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.