Adidas plunders Coke for first global ad chief

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HERZOGENAURACH -- Adidas has recruited Coca-Cola's former European advertising director to create the sportswear company's first global advertising department.

Neil Simpson, a 30-year-old Brit, started work at the Adidas International office in Amsterdam this week in the role of global advertising director, with the brief to develop the company's advertising across the globe and to establish a specialized internal ad resource.

Simpson stresses there are no plans to review the estimated $32.5m worldwide account held by London shop Leagas Delaney. The idea of an in-house ad department, similar to that at Coke, is that "if we become more expert in the way we develop advertising, we'll be able to get better work from our agency," says Simpson. "I'm very fortunate to have inherited such a creative agency," he adds.

The decision to set up the centralized department arose from rapid growth of the company within the past two years, Simpson says. "It has got to the stage of critical mass to merit a specialized ad department."

Details of the new venture have still to be worked out: Simpson's first year will be spent visiting Adidas offices around the world and "sizing up the needs" of the company before putting a plan together. He will report to Tom Harrington, VP director of communications, based at the global headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany.

Simpson was recruited to Coke's Atlanta headquarters from London agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty two years ago by his then client, Coke's former vice-president and director of advertising David Wheldon, who left last fall to return to advertising with Pepsi agency BBDO.

Simpson's decision to leave was for both professional and personal reasons. At Adidas, his role is bigger in that he will be in charge of creating a whole new department. He was also attracted by the "exciting atmosphere and dynamism" of the company. On the personal front, Simpson felt his heavy travel schedule with Coke meant he had spent "a little too much time over the Atlantic". He claims Wheldon's departure did not influence his own.

Copyright August 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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