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MARKETING CHANGES ANNOUNCED AT COCA-COLA

Chief Creative Esther Lee to Report to Global CMO

By Published on .

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Coca-Cola Co. today announced several changes to its global and North American marketing leadership.
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Esther Lee, chief creative officer for Coca-Cola North America, will now report directly to Chuck Fruit, the beverage giant's chief global marketing officer, Mr. Fruit said today in a memo to employees that was shared with the media. She will "lead a team to develop a new advertising and brand communication model that allows our system to better leverage fewer, bigger creative ideas that work across more geographies," he said.

In addition, a new North American advertising director will be named in the near future. Ms. Lee will work with marketing directors and brand groups as well as other functional marketing leaders.

Splitting divisions
In two separate memos from Don Knauss, president of Coca-Cola North America, the marketer said Javier Benito has resigned as president of U.S. retail division and chief marketing officer for Coca-Cola North America to pursue other interests. Mr. Benito joined Coke in 1994. In a second memo, Mr. Knauss said the company would separate the U.S. retail division and the Coca-Cola North American marketing organization. As a result, Melody Justice becomes president of the retail division and John Hackett becomes senior vice president of Coca-Cola North America marketing.

Ms. Justice most recently was senior vice president of strategy and planning for North America and began her career at Coke in 1983. Mr. Hackett was most recently general manager of the North American hydration business team. He joined the company in 1988.

Steve Heyer
Coca-Cola is making good on its vow to restore marketing to world-class status, executives said. Since a management shakeup in June, speculation has swirled around the futures of Mr. Benito and Ms. Lee, who were hired by Steve Heyer, the company's former president and chief operating officer.

Mr. Benito was a financially savvy marketer who had a reputation for being hard on staff, much like Mr. Heyer. Ms. Lee is considered a well-respected and talented creative but carried the specter of her former boss.

'Old Coke'
"They are serious about turning around the business," one executive close to Coke said in praising the moves. "This is clear that the new culture is more of the 'Old Coke,' but the good parts where you nurture people, not the bad. You'll see a lot of people come back who've been on the sidelines.

It is unclear if and how the changes will affect the roster of advertising agencies, but the lead U.S. agency, WPP Group's Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York, was said to be well-regarded by Mr. Benito.

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