DMB&B STAFFS UP FOR COKE PLANNING;HIRES BATES EXEC; MCCANN'S ROLE AGAIN QUESTIONED

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Charlie Rutman began work last week as senior VP-director of Coca-Cola Co. media planning at D'Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles, New York, as questions about Coke's future at longtime buying agency McCann-Erickson Worldwide resurfaced.

The soft-drink marketer last month consolidated U.S. media planning at DMB&B, where Mr. Rutman will have a staff of 40. Mr. Rutman, most recently exec VP-media manager at Bates USA, declined comment.

Before the consolidation, Coca-Cola had planning at its brand agencies-including with McCann, which planned for flagship brand Coca-Cola Classic and which pitched the consolidated account.

COKE DENIALS

While Coca-Cola has repeatedly denied buying will eventually leave McCann and follow planning to DMB&B's TeleVest unit, rumors persist.

"I think Coke will definitely move it, but maybe not for a few years, after it sees if it likes what DMB&B does," said one executive close to a Coca-Cola agency, adding that McCann seems to be the last choice in any decision Coke makes these days.

McCann lost creative duties on Coke Classic in 1991 to a unit of Creative Artists Agency, Beverly Hills, Calif., later bought by Coca-Cola and renamed Edge Advertising.

Further complicating McCann's strained relationship with the soft-drink giant is the fact that William Cella, the agency's exec VP-broadcast and programming and its buying unit's point man with Coca-Cola, is said to be in line to succeed Joel Segal as exec VP-national broadcast director. Such a promotion would give Mr. Cella, reportedly well-liked by Coca-Cola, less hands-on contact with that account.

According to a number of executives, McCann has engaged headhunters Accord Group Johnson, Smith & Knisely, New York to find a replacement for Mr. Cella.

Mr. Segal confirmed that it's in the "long range future" for Mr. Cella to assume McCann's national broadcast director position but declined to explain why the recruiting firm was making calls.

Mr. Cella did not return phone calls seeking comment. Accord Group representatives declined to comment.

Contributing: Jean Halliday, Mark Gleason.

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