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
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
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.