Coke holds another one from IPG

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In another nick for Interpublic Group of Cos., Coca-Cola Co. will leave its Simply Orange Juice brand with independent Doner, Southfield, Mich., rather than move the fledgling product to Minute Maid agency Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide.

The move is significant because seven-month-old Simply Orange, a not-from-concentrate juice, is being positioned by Coca-Cola as a brand to go up against PepsiCo's Tropicana, formerly handled by FCB. As such, Simply Orange is expected to get a formidable ad budget, well above the $85,000 in measured media spending the brand received in the first half. When the brand was initially awarded to Doner in March, Coca-Cola bypassed former Minute Maid agency Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett USA.

Simply Orange is the latest Coca-Cola brand to whipsaw back to its original agency. Hours after Coca-Cola confirmed agency shifts on Oct. 12 and laid out its multi-million dollar consolidation of 26 brands at Interpublic and WPP Group, it backtracked and said several would stay at the independents that had handled them.

The company said KMX energy drink would remain at Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., while Berlin, Cameron & Partners, New York, would keep Mello Yello and Pibb as well as pick up Minute Maid sodas. Coca-Cola originally planned for those brands to go to Interpublic agencies.

A Coca-Cola spokesman last week confirmed Simply Orange would stay with Doner. "The folks working with the brand at Minute Maid want to keep the business at Doner. That's what we're going to do," he said. Doner declined to comment.

Steven J. Heyer, president-CEO of the company's New Business Ventures unit, executed the Coca-Cola realignment, which was intended to compensate Interpublic for the September loss of $350 million in PepsiCo business. The ruckus over moving these brands suggests the take-action Mr. Heyer may have run into resistance with the brand team at Coca-Cola headquarters, according to at least two insiders.

Sandy Douglas, chief operating officer of Coca-Cola North America, said he represented domestic brand managers in the realignment and that he worked closely with Mr. Heyer and Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Jones. "We worked through some of [brand managers'] concerns and issues," he said.

"Input is a fluid process. As we fine tuned the decision, different people had different input...As we laid out [plans], different members of the marketing team weighed in, and adjustments were made," said Mr. Douglas.

Some people close to the company, however, pointed out that while Mr. Heyer needs to manage the relationship with Interpublic, the brand managers are focused on driving immediate profit. "If the choice is to make a decision for marketing or to make a choice for profit, [brand managers] will choose profit."

But the Coca-Cola spokesman disputed the notion, saying that everyone at the company is concerned with profit.

Contributing: Stephanie Thompson

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