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Coca-Cola’s Brynn Bardacke On The Hybrid Agency Model and Democratization of Creativity

During our first-ever CMO symposium earlier this year, we talked a lot about the "new (old) agency model" and new rules for content creation. And with the growing trend of moving agency models inside brand walls, we talked with Brynn Bardacke about leading Coca-Cola's in-house and hybrid creative agency, the future of content creation and her team's work on a first-of-its-kind creative partnership for Stranger Things season 3, premiering July 4.

From your experience on both the brand and agency side, what inspired your move back to the brand side with Coke?

Prior to The Coca-Cola Company, I worked on both the brand and agency sides of the business (Nike, TBWA\Chiat\Day). Over the course of my career, I’ve also worked for both start-up and mature companies. The radically different types of experiences and environments taught me a lot about how to adapt to – and drive growth across – a diverse set of business circumstances. After my Chiat\Day years, I was excited to come back to the brand side at The Coca-Cola Company. In addition to the job being a marriage of two things that I love – Coca-Cola and marketing – I knew that I would learn more by making a big vs. incremental job change. My biggest aha moment is that starting something new is hard, but absolutely worth it.

What are you working on now that is innovative?

We’ve enjoyed success diversifying our content partners including our recent collaboration with Netflix + Stranger Things Season 3. My team, in collaboration with many other people from across the different functions at the company, played an important role in the development of this work.

In a first-of-its-kind partnership with Netflix, Coca-Cola resurrects the "New Coke" product from 1985.
In a first-of-its-kind partnership with Netflix, Coca-Cola resurrects the "New Coke" product from 1985.

The team was responsible for the content developed with Netflix including a remake of the 1980’s commercial “First Time”. The remake is a fun way to bring Coca-Cola’s timeless message of connection – of bringing people together – to life with another cultural icon, Stranger Things.

What’s currently happening in marketing that most excites you and how will it change the future of marketing? 

The democratization of creative tools such as video cameras, cameras, etc. has resulted in a marketplace full of talented content creators. Given the availability of great talent, The Coca-Cola Company has been able to diversify the way it develops content. In fact, the company currently employs several models. In addition to its external agency partners, the company has an in-house creative team as well as a hybrid team made up of agency and in-house talent. We are also making content with influencers, media partners, and content distributors of all kinds, including non-advertising platforms such as Netflix. While our external agency partners are valued and will always be critical to the company’s success, having many options today allows the teams to choose the right partners based on the business needs.

How do the in-house creative and hybrid teams work together?

"Employing two different models (from funding to staffing), enabled us to learn what was most effective."

The in-house creative team, KO:OP, was created in 2015 and does a broad range of consumer marketing from point-of-sale to OOH to video. Beginning in 2016, the hybrid team, Social Center, was designed to oversee the large majority of North America’s social channels and is responsible for social data & analytics, strategy, media, content creation, community management, and listening across the business. The Social Center is a blend of external agency talent, plus The Coca-Cola Company employees who sit together at our offices and operate as one team. Employing two different models (from funding to staffing), enabled us to learn what was most effective. Based on those learnings, my team is refining, integrating, and scaling the two teams over the next 12-24 months.

How do you pick and develop the talent on your team?  

I pick talent that will help us better understand our consumers and market to them – people who will offer us different skills and new perspectives. Learning from each other’s unique professional and life experiences makes us a stronger team…and most importantly, makes us better people.

What career learnings can you pass on to fellow marketers? 

"your word is more important than any ad."

During my years at TBWA\Chiat\Day, Lee Clow taught me a lot of lessons…marketing and non-marketing alike, but most importantly, that your word is more important than any ad. That you can be uncompromising without being a jerk. That even the CCO rolls up his sleeves to do the work.

In addition to Lee, I’ve worked with great leaders that role modeled all of the right things…incredible work ethic, willingness to take risk, loads of integrity, and many more. If I am able to lead my team with even a fraction of what they showed me, I’ll consider it a win.

Bonus Questions

What’s something that most people don't know about you? 

I love all-things-pencils.

If you weren’t in marketing, what would you be doing? 

Sleeping. :)

What book would you most recommend to fellow marketers?  

Anything but a marketing book.