Media shops eye Coke's planning

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The behind-the-scenes tussle between WPP Group and Interpublic Group of Cos. to win the favor-and ad budget-of Coca-Cola Co. has spread to the media front. WPP's MindShare and Interpublic's Universal McCann have made informal presentations to the soda marketer regarding its media-planning business, currently parked at Bcom3 Group's MediaVest.

WPP shop Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, recently won creative duties on Coca-Cola brands Sprite and Fanta, worth $100 million in billings. Executives say WPP wants to expand the relationship to Coca-Cola's U.S. media buying and planning business. Coca-Cola spent $402 million on U.S. advertising in 2000 and $369 million in the first 10 months of 2001, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

Universal McCann-sibling of long-time Coca-Cola shop McCann-Erickson Worldwide-has plans of its own. It currently handles network buying for Coca-Cola and is quietly trying to convince the marketer to consolidate the entire media account-buying and planning-at Universal McCann. However, according to executives with knowledge of the matter, Steven J. Heyer, president of Coca-Cola Ventures, is disappointed with Universal's performance on the account and is said to be leaning toward tossing more business, including media, WPP's way. Mr. Heyer is a former WPP director.

The biggest obstacle to WPP gaining the media account could be that MindShare handles media for PepsiCo's Pepsi-Cola Co. in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe. MediaVest has handled planning for U.S. Coca-Cola advertising since the mid-`90s.

MediaVest and Universal McCann declined comment; MindShare didn't return calls at press time. Mr. Heyer wasn't available for comment, but a Coca-Cola spokesman said the company is "very pleased" with our agencies and that no changes were planned.

When Coca-Cola moved to consolidate creative with Interpublic and WPP last year, Bcom3's Leo Burnett Co. lost Fruitopia, Hi-C, summer promotion work and Minute Maid juices. It retains the Walt Disney Co.-themed juice drinks as well as Hispanic work through its Lapiz unit.

contributing: hillary chura

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