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Coca-Cola Co. is meeting with its ad agencies in the U.S. and around the world as part of an every-other-year audit of creative assignments that some agency executives believe could lead to a realignment of accounts.

One executive involved with the process, which began last summer, said it was too early to tell if the assessment would result in a reshuffling of assignments. But several Coca-Cola agency executives believe a shift has quietly started in recent months.


Coca-Cola executives insist no accounts are in review and that the audit, being conducted by London-based consultants Jeffrey Adams and Poran Malani, represents business as usual.

"We are not doing a review. It is just not an issue. It's not on our radar," said Ian Rowden, Coca-Cola's VP-director of advertising.

Coke executives did say the company wouldn't hesitate to shift brand assignments if an agency is failing to perform.

"Our loyalties are first and foremost to our brands and to our consumers. Our agencies are well aware of that. They know how we operate and they know what our priorities are," a Coca-Cola spokeswoman said.

The audit is expected to be completed in early 1998. Mr. Adams declined to comment, and Mr. Malani could not be reached.


Coca-Cola, which spent $1.4 billion on worldwide advertising last year, has some 23 lead agencies and many regional shops on its roster. Some high-ranking agency executives believe that as part of its audit, Coca-Cola may be looking to do more global and regional advertising and less local-market advertising.

Recent U.S. agency changes include a move of the regional Mello Yello brand to Berlin, Cameron & Partners, New York, from the Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.

Portland, Ore.-based Wieden & Kennedy, which in the past has handled sports-related assignments, completed a special project last month for brand Coke that includes teen-targeted TV spots. Wieden may be in line for another project as well, the Coca-Cola spokeswoman said.

Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York, which currently handles Cherry Coke and Fanta, is also rumored to be in line for a new assignment.


The most-watched shifts for now appear to be in Europe where McCann-Erickson, Madrid, won local work earlier this fall for the Coke brand from Publicis Conseil, Paris, which had been handling Spain. That move marks the first Coke brand creative recouped by McCann in the region since losing the pan-European business in 1995. It also has picked up Fanta there from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Madrid.

Leo Burnett Co. also has picked up Coke business from Publicis in Germany. While some agencies anticipate further reshufffling in Europe, Publicis continues to handle most of European advertising for the brand, the Coca-Cola spokeswoman said.

"In Spain, McCann had better resources for what we needed done in Spain. In many cases Publicis is the best agency in a given country," she said.

An executive at Publicis said there are no further changes currently anticipated.


New to the Coca-Cola roster in Europe is Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, London, which came on board late last summer to handle special projects, including a global assignment.

Talk of the audit began bubbling up last month, at the same time M. Douglas Ivester was elevated from president to chairman-CEO of Coca-Cola.

Sergio Zyman, Coca-Cola senior VP-chief marketing officer, said there are no plans to change the current multiple agency strategy, formed in 1993.

"It's not a new phase," Mr. Zyman said. "Doug Ivester says there is no need to do left turns or right turns."

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