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Coca-Cola Shakes Up Marketing Ranks

Wendy Clark Moves to North America Business; Katie Bayne Takes on Global Role

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Coke created real rainbows in Johannesburg to celebrate South Africa's 20th anniversary.
Coke created real rainbows in Johannesburg to celebrate South Africa's 20th anniversary.

Coca-Cola's star marketer, Wendy Clark, is tackling the company's North America business.

Ms. Clark will take on the role of president-sparkling and strategic marketing, Coca-Cola North America, effective June 1. Meanwhile, Katie Bayne, who had been president-North America Brands and is the former CMO of Coca-Cola North America, will take on the job vacated by Ms. Clark, senior VP-global sparkling brand center. Ms. Bayne will report to Joe Tripodi, chief marketing and commercial officer. Ms. Clark will report to Sandy Douglas, global chief customer officer and president of Coca-Cola North America.

According to an internal memo, the new appointments "will accelerate the profitable growth of Coca-Cola through world class marketing -- both in North America and markets around the world." The memo went on to say that the moves "bolster our commitment to the advancement of women across our company and in our leadership pipeline."

The quality of marketing in North America has paled in comparison to global initiatives in recent years. While interactive efforts such as "Polar Bowl" and "Mirage" have been well received, the company's global "Open Happiness" marketing efforts have been a hit with consumers, even in the U.S. The company has also looked to global ads for big North America marketing moments, such as the 2013 Super Bowl, when it aired "Security Camera," an ad that originated in Argentina.

The difference is evident when comparing Coca-Cola's work to curb obesity in the U.S., and abroad. In a U.K. spot by David, Buenos Aires, the company presented a day in two men's lives using split screen to show how different lifestyles during different time periods created a healthier approach to living, part of the brand's efforts to raise awareness about balanced diets and active, healthy living.

In the U.S., Coca-Cola took a more prosaic approach via "Coming Together," a two minute ad that highlighted the company's record of developing, distributing and marketing low-calorie beverages.

When asked by Ad Age last year why Coca-Cola's work is better globally than in the U.S., Ms. Clark demurred. "We're in 207 markets so it's not easy to evidence everywhere all the time, but, in the right moments and at the right way, we hope we're having that conversation more and more," she said.

Wendy Clark
Wendy Clark

Ms. Clark will bring much needed stability and creativity to Coca-Cola's North American marketing operations, which have lost several key execs in the last year. Pio Schunker, who had been one of the company's top creatives in North America, departed last August. Alison Lewis, Coca-Cola's head marketer in North America, left for Johnson & Johnson in October.

Katie Bayne
Katie Bayne

Demand for Coca-Cola's soft drinks has been shrinking in North America, while growth in emerging markets shows signs of slowing. CEO Muhtar Kent is betting increased marketing and media investment is the answer. Mr. Kent has pledged that by 2016 the company will increase media spending and brand-building initiatives by up to $1 billion. During an earnings call with analysts earlier this year, he noted the marketing investments would be felt "in every country that we operate in, large or small." Those investments will be funded through a combination of cost-cutting initiatives and improved use of the company's global marketing network.

A year ago Ms. Clark was tapped to lead the newly created Global Sparkling Brand Center, which combined the company's global brand and integrated-marketing teams. The new structure was created in order to drive greater integration, simplicity and speed; increase the focus and impact of the team's work on a worldwide basis; and facilitate rapid scaling and spreading of programs and ideas.

Prior to her role leading the Global Sparkling Brand Center, Ms. Clark had led global integrated-marketing communications and capabilities since joining Coca-Cola in 2008 from AT&T.

Ms. Bayne has been with Coca-Cola since 1989, when she got her start as assistant brand manager of diet colas. Since then she has created a retail marketing arm for Coca-Cola South Pacifi; led North American marketing for the McDonald's Group; and served in a variety of senior marketing and management positions.

Contributions by Shareen Pathak

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