SHARING STARBUCKS QUANDARY AT AAF

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[san diego] Although Starbucks Coffee Co. hasn't yet found the right creative concept, the chain is set on launching its long-awaited branding campaign from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, in October.

Senior VP-Marketing Scott Bedbury and Rich Silverstein, Goodby co-chairman/creative director, said they do have lots of ideas and shared some of them during last week's American Advertising Federation conference.

ELUSIVE CONCEPT

Starbucks hired Goodby last year to create its first brand ad campaign, as well as ads for individual products. Several concepts later, Starbucks has yet to sign off on an idea from the agency.

But last week's public airing of rejected ads, potential approaches and strategic thinking seemed to prove the agency is on solid ground with its client, and that Goodby is being afforded the same kind of freedom and security that Mr. Bedbury gave Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., when he was director of advertising at Nike from 1987 to 1994.

"We're working closely and carefully with our agency to get this right," Mr. Bedbury said.

Added Mr. Silverstein: "Most clients come to us looking for us to play doctor and fix them. Starbucks is golden; it hasn't made a mistake yet. So it's taken a little longer to figure out what an ad agency can do for them."

`IMPATIENT' SILVERSTEIN

He admitted to being "impatient" to start branding and move beyond the agency's effective product-pushing work for Starbucks. "We have an opportunity to redefine what coffee means to a generation," Mr. Silverstein said.

It may not kick off the branding campaign, but Mr. Bedbury said Starbucks is planning a marketing effort tied to its 25th anniversary. The creative will draw from 1971 pop culture images.

The uncertainty over which approach and what kinds of media Starbucks will use seems linked to two "problems" born of its fast and phenomenal growth: its diversity and ubiquity.

Mr. Bedbury said: "We're not the McDonald's of coffee...We're a retailer. We're a manufacturer. We're a foodservice company. We're very complex."

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