Adages

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The fool on the hill

"I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company." Thirty years ago, the folk/pop band the New Seekers sang this joyful Coke ode in an ad shot on an Italian hilltop with a cast of hundreds of lip-synching kids. This year, Coke finds itself in mixed company at its new advertising shop and may be singing a more discordant tune. The Atlanta soda marketer recently handed its $83 million Sprite account to WPP's Ogilvy & Mather, a sibling shop to Y&R Advertising, which handles rival Cadbury Schweppes' 7UP. In January, 7UP's outrageous "Make 7 up yours" campaign will release a parody ad in which the comedian Godfrey conducts a multicultural chorus on a hill that quickly erupts into a melee. The irony cuts deep as Coke is a company known for warring with rival brands, particularly Pepsi. Interpublic Group of Cos., a Coke roster holding company, recently lost several Pepsi accounts to Omnicom because the two brands could not sing two-part harmony under one roof. A Coke spokesman wouldn't comment on the 7UP ad, other than to say the company knew about WPP's client when it placed Sprite there. Y&R declined comment. When asked about it last month, WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell said he was unaware of the 7Up ad.

My bodyguard

Speaking of Omnicom, what is John Wren afraid of? The Omnicom CEO surprised a lot of people when his company announced a startup corporate policing unit. SafirRosetti, the latest Omnicom company, will provide corporate security and investigation services and is led by former New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir, an old friend of Wren's through fire and police charitable foundations. Mr. Safir explained how he and Wren came up with the idea. "We were speaking once about an Omnicom client that had an investigative need and it seemed to me to make sense for Omnicom to have this kind of capability in its family of companies." Mr. Safir, who would not reveal the name of the Omnicom client with the security need, said SafirRosetti is not wholly owned by Omnicom but is a partnership between him and Joe Rosetti, a former vice chairman at industrial espionage consultant Kroll Associates. Omnicom holds the majority interest.

Jack O'Dwyer a journalist and Omnicom shareholder known for run-ins with holding company execs, tells Adages that Omnicom is entering the "spook business" "They're going to start going through people's garbage now," says Jack. "That's what Kroll does. This has nothing to do with advertising."

Goodby Merkley Silverstein

Will partners at Goodby Silverstein be trading Isuzu for, say, Mercedes? The San Francisco Omnicom shop is going full bore in the pitch for General Motors' Saturn. Still, wheels are spinning about a possible shift in gears to Mercedes, with Goodby rumored to be taking over Omnicom sibling and Mercedes' agency, Merkley Newman Harty. Financial service clients would be a major obstacle, as Merkley has Citigroup, and Goodby does the Discover card ads. Still, Goodby execs are driving aging Porches since they lost that lux brand in 1999. Insiders at Goodby and Merkley say there is no truth to the rumors. The man who holds the key, John Wren, did not return calls to Adages.

Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo and Hillary Chura

Send secure e-mail to rlinnett@crain.com

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