OPINION: Stuart Elliott in America

Coke and Pepsi, Pepsi and Coke. For American advertising, they're

sometimes like Heckle and Jeckle, as in no discernable difference

between those birds of a feather. And they are sometimes like Wile E

Coyote and the Road Runner, as in continuously contentious characters

whose fractious relationship occasionally takes on comic qualities.



But it has been no laughing matter lately on Madison Avenue as the

Coca-Cola Company and the Pepsi-Cola Company overhaul their agency

rosters in consolidations triggered by the tangled, decades-long

antagonism between them.



The changes began when Pepsi-Cola perceived a conflict in the fact that

Foote Cone & Belding was creating campaigns for products the company

owned - such as Tropicana juices and Aquafina bottled water - as well as

products that its parent, PepsiCo, was acquiring in buying Quaker Oats,

such as Gatorade sports beverage and Quaker cereals.



The problem, of course, had nothing to do with the work produced by

Foote Cone from its Chicago and New York offices, and everything to do

with the agency's new ownership. For just as PepsiCo acquired Quaker,

True North Communications, the parent of Foote Cone, was acquired by the

Interpublic Group of Companies.



Oops, they did it again, as Britney Spears - a Pepsi drinker (in

commercials, anyway, if not when she's visiting Australia) - might

say.



Interpublic is firmly in the Coca-Cola camp, as myriad Interpublic-owned

shops are the agencies of record for Coca-Cola brands. And Interpublic

is even the "brand steward" for the flagship Coke brand, known in North

America as Coca-Cola Classic.



As liberalised as conflict policies have grown in recent years, that was

one Pepsi-Cola obviously found, well, hard to swallow.



So off went $200 million to $300 million of Pepsi-Cola and

Quaker billings from Foote Cone and Interpublic to shops owned by the

main Pepsi-Cola agency company, the Omnicom Group. Even in the massively

skewed world we live in after 11 September, for every action there is

still an equal and opposite reaction. So it came as no surprise that

Coca-Cola swiftly shifted billings of about the same amount to

Interpublic agencies from roster shops not under the Interpublic

umbrella, in order to make Interpublic whole for the lost business.



So Foote Cone in Chicago is to land Powerade, the Coca-Cola sports

beverage which has been at Wieden & Kennedy, and Foote Cone in New York

is to land Minute Maid, the Coca-Cola juice products that compete

against Tropicana, formerly at Leo Burnett.



Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide is to land Diet Coke, also from

Wieden.



And McCann-Erickson Worldwide Advertising is to regain parts of the

Coca-Cola Classic account previously parcelled out to Wieden, Burnett

and D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles.



But wait, it gets more complicated. Foote Cone and Interpublic are suing

Omnicom and Brian Williams, the former president at the Foote Cone

Chicago office, because, they charge in a lawsuit, Williams helped

Omnicom take over the Quaker account, apparently to be housed at a new

unit of Omnicom's DDB Worldwide, and recruited other Foote Cone

executives to leave with him. No wonder Coca-Cola Classic just dropped

"Life tastes good" as its slogan in the United States. There's a bitter

residue when conflicts overwhelm common sense.



- Close-up, p17.