Agencies Make Their Pitch to Diet Coke

ATLANTA – Nobody got to ‘Taste It All,’ but executives from agencies across the country got a taste of what it might be like to handle the Diet Coke account as they pitched the business here last week.
Coca-Cola USA heard presentations last week from many, if not all, of the agencies currently in the hunt for Diet Coke. They are said to include embattled incumbent Lintas: New York; sister Interpublic Group shops McCann-Erickson and Lowe & Partners; D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and Backer Spielvogel Bates, both of which pitched for the Coke Classic brand in the last few years. Also in are four agencies which have virtually no history with the soft-drink advertiser: Fallon McElligott/Minneapolis; Wieden & Kennedy/Portland, Ore.; Chiat/Day, Venice Beach, Calif.; and CME-KHBB/N.Y. However, it’s possible some shops are directing their efforts towards other Coke projects.
Coca-Cola declined comment.
In recent weeks it’s become clear that the pitch for Diet Coke is not just about selling a series of 30-second spots and a new theme line to Sergio Zyman, the Coke chief marketing officer who rejoined the soft-drink company in July. Several sources connected to the Diet Coke pitch said Zyman was more interested in an all-encompassing approach to revamping Diet Coke, which has been off the airwaves since the ‘Taste It All’ campaign was yanked in February.
The ‘Holy Grail’ on Diet Coke advertising now looks – and tastes – like event marketing, something to give the brand some notoriety and make a big splash, sources said. As such, it’s considered likely the agencies have been trying to sell Coca-Cola on coming up with campaigns that feed off of something larger, such as a big promotion push. Said one source, ‘This is as fluid as Diet Coke itself. It’s really open-ended.’
The week clearly came out as a net positive for The Lowe Group. Now, as the shop tries to gain more brands on the Coke roster, it’s the one agency that can claim that Coke’s newest marketing employee is a former co-worker. As announced early last week, Lowe Howard-Spink managing director David Wheldon soon will join Coke as director of advertising under Zyman.
Wheldon, who will have responsibility for all Coke advertising with exception of the Coke Classic 1994 effort, could not be reached for comment in London last week. He first came to the attention of Zyman during L H-S’ handling of Tab Clear, which had been assigned to Lowe’s London office to keep the U.S. beverage launch top secret.
It’s apparent that as Wheldon, 37, acquaints himself with the coke advertising process, he will be on the lookout for breakthrough creative work, having helped lead Lowe Howard-Spink to the heights of London market creativity since joining the shop in 1989. ‘I think he’s made a considerable contribution over the last three years to the advertising we’ve produced,’ said Lowe Group chairman Frank Lowe.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)