COCA-COLA PROCLAIMS NESTEA TIME FOR CAA

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Coca-Cola Co. is giving its Hollywood sweetheart, Creative Artists Agency, an early valentine: creative responsibility for its Nestea brands.

The assignment is the first the soft-drink giant has awarded to the Beverly Hills, Calif., talent agency since CAA turned Madison Avenue on its ear two years ago by scoring creative control of main brand Coca-Cola Classic from McCann-Erickson Worldwide.

For McCann, the Nestea shift is another in-your-face salvo from CAA.

McCann's U.S. and international offices have handled ads for the ready-to-drink teas since Coca-Cola set up a joint venture with Nestle last August. To date, McCann's primary work for the brand in the U.S. included a $30 million new-product introductory campaign.

Since then, agency insiders have complained that their relationship with Coca-Cola Chief Marketing Officer Sergio Zyman is becoming increasingly tenuous.

For CAA, the shift is a resounding and rare public vote of confidence from Coca-Cola's mercurial marketing guru. Since Mr. Zyman assumed the top marketing slot, he has signed off on the talent agency's "Always Coca-Cola" work while continuing to strew brand assignments among other agencies.

Elsewhere at Coca-Cola, the long anticipated new Diet Coke commercials from Lowe & Partners/SMS will be unveiled in New York this week but won't make their debut tonight as previously planned.

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