Coke to Hear Ideas on Classic Brand

NEW YORK Coca-Cola, which said its second-half earnings will decline, is preparing to meet with at least three agencies to hear ideas on how the company can better leverage its Coke Classic brand in international and domestic campaigns, sources said.

Coke said earnings per share for the second half of 2004 would be between 77 cents and 82 cents, compared with 88 cents per share during the first six months of 2003. The company said worldwide volume growth in the third quarter was below 1 percent, and that volume for the full year would be less than 2 percent.

Coke cited weak sales in North America, operations issues in Germany and unseasonable weather in Northern Europe as reasons for the disappointing volume.

“I am not satisfied with this performance or the anticipated results,” worldwide CEO Neville Isdell told analysts. “They are symptoms of problems that demand strong corrective actions and initiatives that will put this company firmly on its proper growth course.” Isdell returned to Coke in early June as CEO, succeeding Doug Daft, who is retiring.

Coke will hear from WPP Group’s Berlin Cameron/Red Cell (which has handles Coke Classic in the U.S. and masterminded the current “Real” campaign); Interpublic’s McCann Erickson (which handles Coke in some overseas markets); and Publicis Groupe’s Publicis (which works for Coke’s Minute Maid), sources said.

Sources said multiple offices of these shops are involved in the creative assignment. The agencies will meet with Coke within the next two weeks at the company’s headquarters in Atlanta.

Independent Taxi in Toronto, not a roster shop, and London-based indie Mother, which handles Coke Classic in the U.K., also received the brief, sources said, but it could not be immediately determined if either has a meeting scheduled.

Agency executives either declined comment or could not be reached.

Undisclosed other shops may also be involved, sources said.

A Coke representative declined to comment on any aspect of the undertaking. In August, Coke confirmed that the company had briefed some agencies on a project that would augment Coke Classic advertising [Adweek, Aug. 11], but disclosed no other information.

The goal is to be able to run at least two spots and some billboard ads that are appropriate for any country, regardless of culture, and reinforce the “iconic” nature of the brand, sources said. Billings on the assignment have not been determined.

There is currently no single agency working on international advertising; print and TV work are created and placed on a country-by-country basis.

The client spends upwards of $300 million in media worldwide on Coke Classic.

Two weeks ago, Interpublic Group’s Campbell-Ewald in Warren, Mich., presented ideas on Coke Classic to svp, chief marketing officer Chuck Fruit, sources said. It was not clear if the shop was working from the so-called “iconic brief,” because that project is being handled by Marc Mathieu, who runs global brand advertising for Coke Classic, Javier Benito, North America CMO, and Esther Lee, the company’s chief creative officer. Sources said none of those executives was present at the Campbell-Ewald presentation.

A Campbell-Ewald rep declined to comment.