Coke, Pepsi: Don't look for shifts in ad strategy

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Top executives from Coca-Cola Co. and Pepsi-Cola Co. said last week they have no immediate plans to change their agency lineups or make radical changes in ad campaigns for their core cola brands.

The archrivals both have new TV commercials in the works for their colas, expected to debut in the next month or so.


The late March resignation of Coca-Cola Chief Marketing Officer Sergio Zyman sparked industry speculation the beverage giant would whittle down its unusually long global roster of 24 advertising agencies and would rethink its "Always" theme for Coca-Cola Classic.

But, said Ian Rowden, Coca-Cola VP-director, worldwide advertising, "We have a business practice and an agency roster we are very comfortable with and we have no plans to change it."

He said Coca-Cola has added an agency since Mr. Zyman's departure, tapping Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York, to handle an unspecified assignment for Coca-Cola Classic.

Mr. Rowden said the "Always" campaign is "still relevant."

He plans to review this week new Coca-Cola commercials from Edge Creative, Los Angeles.

Charles Frenette, a veteran of Coca-Cola's fountain business, and most recently head of the company's South Africa division, stepped into Mr. Zyman's position May 1. Many agencies on Coca-Cola's roster are anxiously waiting to see whether he'll shuffle the lineup.

Pepsi-Cola, meanwhile, is producing new commercials for Pepsi via longtime agency BBDO Worldwide, New York, that represent an evolution of recent commercials for the brand, said Philip Marineau, president-CEO of Pepsi-Cola North America.


One new spot revisits the popular flying goose that made its debut in January on the Super Bowl. Other spots created for the Super Bowl showcase, however, got poor reviews from Pepsi-Cola bottlers, prompting speculation BBDO's hold on the account was vulnerable.

Mr. Marineau, speaking in an informal session with reporters May 13, his first such meeting since joining Pepsi-Cola Dec. 1, said the company has a "great relationship" with BBDO.

"I have no second thoughts about that relationship. The last thing we're worried about is our agency," he said.

Mr. Marineau said he is conducting a close evaluation of brand Pepsi, which he describes as a brand "about a youthful attitude, about having fun."

The fate of Pepsi's "Generation next" tagline remains unclear. Mr. Marineau, a veteran of Quaker Oats Co. who helped develop Gatorade into a major brand, admits he isn't a fan of the narrow theme, which "talks about who you have to be."

The evaluation comes at a time of flat sales in the cola business and when Pepsi-Cola's marketing department is undergoing major changes.

Brian Swette, Pepsi-Cola's chief marketing officer, resigned April 30. Rather than directly replace him, the company appointed a Marketing Council to oversee global marketing.


Just as Coca-Cola is placing a greater emphasis on local marketing and promotions, so too will Pepsi-Cola, via a new promotion targeted for later in the year, Mr. Marineau said.

"There will be a little more emphasis on local marketing, less on a national focus," he said.

He said no decisions have yet been made about expanding a market test of its new lemon-lime Storm brand since it's too early to tell if consumers are returning to purchase it again.

Messrs. Rowden and Marineau were speakers last week at an annual beverage conference sponsored by Beverage Marketing Corp. and the Beverage World Publications Group.

Copyright May 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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