The global strategy will be implemented by local agencies already handling Diet Coke, known in some countries as Coke Light, either in the original format or adapted for the local market. In a handful of cases, such as France, that means other offices in the Publicis Worldwide network will handle, but in the U.S., an independent, Wieden & Kennedy, works on the brand's creative.
Coca-Cola declined to comment about the appointment, but Richard Pinder, chief operating officer of Publicis Worldwide in Paris, said there was no pitch and no globally aligned incumbent. Previously, Diet Coke creative was developed on a country-by-country basis.
Late last year, Coke's VP-global marketing strategy and creative communications in Atlanta, Jonathan Mildenhall, asked Publicis, an agency partner for about 10 years, to develop a strategy to rejuvenate Diet Coke. The brand is sandwiched between Coca-Cola Co.'s flagship brand and Coke Zero, a sugar-free beverage with zero calories that tastes more like original Coke.
Coke Zero has an edgy image that has caught fire among male consumers, because it is "calorie-free" rather than "diet," as well as the youth market. Its success has brought Diet Coke dangerously close to losing its relevance to its core audience, figure-conscious women. "If you look at usage and distribution profiles, they overlap a bit, 10% or 20%," said Mr. Pinder. "The point is to give Diet Coke clear positioning and clear identity globally."
Publicis held an internal pitch, which narrowed to Publicis Mojo, its joint venture in Australia and New Zealand, and Duval Guillaume, a creative boutique in New York owned by Publicis Worldwide. One of Australia's most-awarded agencies, Publicis Mojo also works with advertisers in Australia such as Nike, Tourism Victoria, Toyota Motor Corp. and Nestle.