Coca-Cola Co. is having conversations with J. Walter Thompson Co., New York, about adding the agency to its roster.
The talks, initiated by Coca-Cola Director of Advertising Ian Rowden, continue the soft-drink marketer's practice of continually adding agencies and shuffling assignments.
JWT and Coca-Cola declined to comment. But executives close to both companies said Mr. Rowden recently contacted JWT CEO-elect Chris Jones, currently co-president of the agency, to ask about its interest in doing Coca-Cola work.
No assignments or formal presentations have been made; rather, the agency and soft-drink marketer have discussed different projects in which JWT might be interested.
If an agreement with JWT is reached, initial assignments probably would be overseas, where until this year JWT handled some Pepsi-Cola work, said one person familiar with the talks. Pepsi has consolidated its overseas roster in recent years, in part at the expense of JWT.
JWT caught Coca-Cola's eye with ads it created for Pepsi in India, said another executive close to Coca-Cola.
Sergio Zyman, chief marketing officer for Coca-Cola, likes having many agencies at his disposal for several reasons.
Primarily, he wants a well-stocked reservoir of diverse creative and media resources. In the past two years, Coca-Cola has added more than a dozen shops to its roster worldwide, from small agencies such as Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York, to large agencies like Leo Burnett Co., Chicago.
Also, Mr. Zyman likes locking up agencies he respects so competitors can't use them.
When Burnett won Coca-Cola's Fruitopia brand 18 months ago, it was forced to give up $50 million in billings from Coke competitors Tropicana and 7UP. Mr. Zyman replaced Burnett's Tropicana work this year with business for Coke's orange juice brand, Minute Maid.
Copyright December 1996, Crain Communications Inc.