CMO Fruit to Become Coke Advisor

NEW YORK Chuck Fruit, who has been Coca-Cola’s chief marketing officer for slightly more than a year, said he would become a senior advisor to the company on media, sports and entertainment marketing and sponsorships, beginning in 2006, according to a corporate memo obtained by Adweek.

Once Fruit makes that transition, the CMO title will not be used.

In March, Mary Minnick returned from running the company’s Asian operations to become director of marketing, innovation and strategic growth—and Fruit began reporting to her instead of Coke CEO Neville Isdell.

Since then, Fruit has been working on Coke’s “Manifesto for Growth,” in which he and a team of executives assessed the marketing and strategic planning disciplines within the company.

Before becoming CMO last year, Fruit was in charge of media for the Atlanta-based company.

In a memo to colleagues today, Fruit wrote that he is looking forward to his new role and to working with “so many of the same smart, dedicated people for whom I have such great admiration and respect.”

He also said that Minnick would unveil additional changes to Coca-Cola’s marketing, strategy and innovation structure in coming weeks.

Fruit’s new role is the most recent in a series of executive changes at the company under Minnick’s leadership since May.

In July, Ogilvy & Mather alum Pio Schunker was named to lead Coca-Cola’s U.S. advertising creative, replacing Javier Benito, who joined former company COO Steve Heyer at Starwood Resorts in March.

Esther Lee, who had been Coke’s worldwide chief creative officer, relinquished her U.S. duties, and now concentrates on international advertising.

The brand’s eagerly awaited global “iconic” advertising, originally slated to launch in May under the supervision of Lee, has been stalled as Minnick settled into her new role.

In July, she restarted a review to choose an agency to handle the iconic campaign, and along with other company executives, she will hear final presentations in mid-September from WPP Group’s Ogilvy and Berlin Cameron/Red Cell; Publicis Groupe’s Publicis; Interpublic Group’s McCann Erickson; and independents Wieden + Kennedy and Mother.

London-based Naked and Santa Monica, Calif.-based Len Fink/Amoeba will try to extend the winning idea into other media.

The agencies are working from the brief “Happiness in a bottle,” sources said [Adweek, Aug. 8].

Coca-Cola spent nearly $465 million on measured media last year, and $290 million through the first six months of 2005, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.