COKE REVIEWS U.S. MEDIA PLANNING

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Coca-Cola Co. is reviewing the way it handles U.S. media and is likely to consolidate media planning at one or more of the shops on its roster.

The planning review has raised speculation the cola giant will also review its much more lucrative national media buying business in the U.S., already consolidated at McCann-Erickson Worldwide. Executives close to the review insist it is currently limited to planning, though at least one agency insider said it will be expanded to include buying.

Although media planning fees are not as lucrative as the buying account, Coke agencies are eagerly vying for more business.

U.S. BUYING: $300 MIL

According to one estimate, U.S. planning represents fees of up to $10 million. Coke's U.S. media buying business is estimated at more than $300 million.

Currently, agencies that do creative work for various Coca-Cola brands also handle media planning. Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, handles creative and planning for Diet Coke and Sprite, for example. McCann is no longer the lead creative shop for Coke Classic, but it still handles media planning for the flagship brand.

Other agencies on the roster include Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, the Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., and D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis.

EVALUATION IS ONGOING

"We don't engage in speculation, but we're always evaluating marketing approaches and agency support systems," said Coke spokesman Bob Bertini.

In Europe, Coke recently retained McCann on its $200 million media planning and buying account. A U.S. media buying review would obviously be a blow to McCann at a time when the agency is on a roll (see story on opposite page).

Chuck Ross contributed to this story.

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