New World Order for Coca-Cola

The Coca-Cola Co. is embarking on a global realignment that involves dozens of agencies and brands, and hundreds of millions in billings.

Shops that stand to lose are Bcom3’s D’arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and Leo Burnett, as well as Wieden + Kennedy, sources said. Shops that fall under the IPG and WPP banners are likely to benefit. Global spending on the brands involved is upward of $300 million.

Sources said IPG will gain the majority of the business on the loose, in part as payback for the $350 million in Pepsi business its FCB unit recently lost. The holding company already is Coca-Cola’s creative partner on Coke Classic, but IPG and its agencies are in line to also get the Diet Coke and Powerade accounts (from Wieden), as well as Minute Maid (from Burnett) [Adweek Online, Sept. 27].

Under one scenario, Powerade heads to FCB, which gave up Pepsi’s Gatorade as part of the business that conflicted with IPG’s Coke relationship. And Diet Coke could be headed back to IPG’s Lowe Lintas & Partners (in 1993, Lintas: New York lost the brand in a roster-shop shootout to what was then Lowe & Partners).

WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather is expected to pick up the Sprite business from Lowe Lintas. It is also likely to gain Fanta from D’Arcy, which also loses its Coke Nascar business.

WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell’s connections to members of the Coca-Cola board and to Steve Heyer, president of Coca-Cola Ventures, opened the door to conversations about Sprite and other brands, sources said.

Heyer has been at Coke since March. He joined WPP’s board in May 2000 while he was president and COO of Turner Broadcasting. Previously, he was president and COO of Young & Rubicam, now owned by WPP.

An announcement by Coke was set for late last week, but with details still to be ironed out, it was postponed, sources said.

It is unclear how potential conflicts will be resolved. For example, WPP’s J. Walter Thompson and Y&R handle Unilever-owned Lipton Brisk and Cadbury Schweppes’ Dr. Pepper and 7-Up, respectively.

Coca-Cola also plans to phase out the “Life tastes good” tag line for Coke Classic, sources said.

Additionally, the status of Berlin Cam eron & Partners, an independent New York shop that handles Dasani and Mello Yello, was unclear, sources said. Executives at the agencies and holding companies referred calls to the client or could not be reached. Coke declined comment.