Pepsi Taps New Agency for Digital, Brings Social In-House

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Firstborn has picked up the digital creative business for brand Pepsi after a review that began in September, a PepsiCo spokeswoman confirmed. But Pepsi will handle social media in-house via its new content studio in Manhattan.

The incumbent on the digital business was Cheil Worldwide-owned Barbarian Group, which is trying to rebuild after a wave of personnel departures.

Recent turnover at Barbarian includes the departure of CEO Peter Kim, who left the shop on Sept. 1 after less than a year in the post. He took the helm last December, when former chief executive Sophie Kelly stepped down. His departure followed that of numerous Barbarian Group executives over the last six months. Cheil Worldwide President of International and CEO of Greater China Aaron Lau is serving as Barbarian Group's interim CEO.

Barbarian had already lost PepsiCo's Brisk brand to VML in June. That came after the agency's executive creative chief, Edu Pou, left the agency.

PepsiCo's 4,000-square-foot content creation studio is in the heart of SoHo and is overseen by Brad Jakeman, president of PepsiCo's global beverage group. The space includes a 2,300-square-foot, multiuse recording studio, five editing and production bays, and a theater-style screening room with 10 oversize leather chairs.

Mr. Jakeman envisions the space being used not just for brand content, but for broader projects that include brand-agnostic content via distribution deals with film studios and online publishers. His goal is to sell enough unbranded content to cover the costs of creating ad content.

Firstborn, which was No. 8 on Ad Age's Agency A-List in 2010, has worked with PepsiCo for a number of years, beating out Barbarian Group and Big Spaceship to win the pitch for the SoBe business in 2009.

Earlier this year, Firstborn was hired to lead digital efforts for Michael Bloomberg's presidential campaign. The agency was also brought on by Vonage this spring to design its new website and handle digital content.

Two years ago, Firstborn was one of Ad Age's Agencies to Watch due to its 50% growth revenue in 2013 and new retainer work for brands like L'Oreal Luxe products and Mtn Dew.

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