Grogan Returns to Coke, Agency Side

When Coca-Cola asked Berlin Cameron/Red Cell to help McCann-Erickson develop a new strategy for Coke Classic last spring, the first meeting between the agencies was so awkward, it “felt like being shipwrecked with sheep,” Andy Berlin recalled. “And maybe we were the sheep.”

Berlin, who launched his New York shop with Ewen Cameron in 1997, credited Bill Grogan with smoothing tensions between the agencies. At the time, Grogan was the point person for all things Coke at McCann and parent Interpublic Group. WPP’s Berlin Cameron has since wrested lead creative duties on the brand from McCann, producing the “Real” campaign, which broke in January.

Last week, Berlin hired Grogan, 43, as the first president of the shop, where he will run the $260 million U.S. Coke Classic account.

“As we moved to ‘Real’ as a platform for brand Coke, I was fascinated by idea-rooted, concept-based, integrated marketing,” Grogan said, explaining why he left McCann in December to join AOL Time Warner as an svp of marketing. There, he discovered that, “you never miss your water until the well runs dry. I missed the agency world.”

Grogan emphasized that: “I’m not coming back just to do Coke. We want to build on the natural momentum our work on Coke has engendered.” Berlin predicted the staff will double in size to 85 within the year from other new business, which he declined to discuss.

Grogan began his ad career at BBDO in 1981 after graduating from Columbia University. He joined McCann five years later. Crediting his upbringing in Manhattan’s blue-collar Inwood area for his work ethic, Grogan is a museum lover who has what he calls a “renaissance” side, citing Yeats and Auden as favorite poets.