Hours after being named Coca-Cola's chief marketing officer, Marcos de Quinto was on a Madrid stage collecting the top prize at Spain's leading advertising awards. Mr. De Quinto, president of Coca-Cola's Iberia business unit, was there with his team to accept El Gran Premio, as well as awards for innovation, best strategy and commercial communication, for its spot, "Benditos Bares" or "Blessed Bars," from the Spanish Advertisers Association. The campaign, which has been lauded across Spain in the last year, is an ode to the many cozy, inviting bars that are integral to both the Spanish culture and economy.
"The idea was to give support not directly to a Coke product, but to a channel, paying homage to the bars that are having such a difficult moment with the economic crisis, but are the place we go to see our friends and fix the world," said Miguel Garcia Vizcaino, chief creative officer of Sra Rushmore, the WPP-owned local creative shop that worked on the effort with Carat. "It's an emotional campaign that touches everyone's heart a bit."
Experience confronting a grim economic reality with persuasive marketing will serve Mr. De Quinto well as he relocates to Atlanta to tackle the company's challenges. The beverage giant is facing declining soda sales (Coca-Cola's Iberia business unit, which includes Spain and Portugal, reported a 2% volume decline in the most recent quarter) and obesity concerns in many markets. It's also contending with criticisms that its marketing, particularly in North America, isn't driving sales.
The day prior to the announcement of Mr. De Quinto's appointment, Coca-Cola Chairman-CEO Muhtar Kent told analysts third-quarter results were below expectations. "We continue to face
a challenging macroeconomic environment, more challenging than we anticipated early in the year," he said.
"There's no question that we need to improve our execution in many markets, especially our consumer marketing and commercial strategies."
Mr. De Quinto will be markedly different from his predecessor, Joe Tripodi, who was regarded as a buttoned-up, nuts-and-bolts marketer. Those who have worked with Mr. De Quinto, as well as various Spanish-language media reports, paint a picture of a straight-talking, inventive marketer who doesn't shy away from controversy. He often speaks publicly, espousing his ideas on digital marketing and the need for transparency.
On Twitter, he's amassed nearly 24,000 followers who tune in for his keen observations on culture and current affairs, as well as to observe various spats.
He's engaged with critics, including an ultra-conservative family-values group, as well as a group that works with the Spanish legal system to fight terrorism. In the Twitter dust-up with the family-values group, which was upset about Coca-Cola advertising on a show it didn't approve of, Mr. De Quinto ended the discussion with a tweet that said, "If the price to pay for you to not stop drinking Coca-Cola is that I have to think like you, I prefer you don't drink it. Seriously."
In his Twitter profile, Mr. De Quinto, who tweets only in Spanish, describes himself as, "Pirate. I sail without a flag. I'm not trying to convince you of anything, just perhaps make you question what you believe in."
He is relatively unknown in adland outside of his native Spain and his appointment came as a surprise to many. Mr. De Quinto also holds the distinction of being the company's first CMO -- a role that dates to the early 1980s -- plucked from outside North America.
Coca-Cola reported $3.3 billion in global advertising expenses in 2013, and its agency relationships are vast, including Ogilvy, Droga5, McCann Worldgroup, Wieden & Kennedy, Y&R and Publicis Worldwide, to name a few. Mr. De Quinto has close relationships with the advertising community in Spain, particularly McCann Erickson, Sra Rushmore and Publicis.
"Marcos is one of the most brilliant people I know," said Miguel Angel Furones, president of Publicis Iberia, noting Mr. De Quinto is known as an innovator and force for change. "He's an exceptional leader who inspires everyone he works with."
"He's considered one of the pioneers and best marketing and communications professionals in the last 20 years [in Spain]," Mr. Vizcaino added. "He's a straight-talking visionary, and does things no one else does. He's always about five years ahead of the competition. And he has Coca-Cola in his veins."
Mr. De Quinto, who has been president of the Iberia business unit since 2000, joined the company in 1982 in Coca-Cola Espana's marketing department. He has been marketing director of Coca-Cola Espana and Coca-Cola's German division, as well as division marketing manager of Coca-Cola Southeast and West Asia. Mr. De Quinto also had a brief stint as regional manager of Southern Publicity Agencies ALAS BATES/BSB Advertising.
Contributing: Natalie Zmuda
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