Coke's 'Open Happiness' Opens Regional Dialogue

Q&A With Shay Drohan, VP-Sparkling Brands, Coca-Cola

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NEW YORK ( -- When you're the VP-sparkling brands for Coca-Cola, which spends some $3 billion on marketing in more than 200 countries, having a few extra languages at the ready comes in handy. Shay Drohan, a native of Ireland who's fluent in Gaelic, English and Spanish, can also get by in Portuguese, Korean and French. That's helpful when 80% of your time is spent traveling the globe.

Shay Drohan, VP-sparkling brands at Coca-Cola
Shay Drohan, VP-sparkling brands at Coca-Cola
The Mexico City-based Mr. Drohan said travel is a necessity, as he can't afford to neglect any country right now. It's hard to disagree, given Coke's growth horizons in countries such as China and India. The company faces many challenges across the globe -- just last week, Venezuela banned Coke Zero for health reasons.

In his 18 months on the job, Mr. Drohan has been developing global strategies, as well as getting intimately involved in local market research. Last year, he spent time in Russia visiting the homes of local families, getting to know their habits and needs. And this year he's been involved with the global rollout of "Open Happiness."

Ad Age: What are some of the key differences between "Coke Side of Life" and "Open Happiness"?

Mr. Drohan: It's moved quicker globally. Probably over two-thirds of our volume is now covered after less than six months with over 80 countries. I suspect we'll have everyone covered globally within the first 12 months. That is a fairly major achievement for us. The other thing is that we have an interesting mixture of globally developed and locally sourced materials. We put that into an overall pool so that everyone has visibility and has access to all of the work that's coming from all parts of the world and they can make the decisions locally about what are the copy needs, what are the programs, the promotions, the locally integrated campaigns that they need to develop for their own local needs and timing.

Ad Age: Does that system adequately account for local and regional differences?

Mr. Drohan: It certainly allows for local and regional differences, but it also encourages people to view other people's work before they ask for something locally. One of the challenges we've had before is making sure everyone else is aware of what's happening around the world. Frequently we may have done something in Argentina and done something very similar in Asia, but because you're doing it at a similar time, it's not until after you've finished that you realize there was a huge amount of similarity. If we had worked more clearly or cohesively as a team and collaborated differently, maybe we would have been able to do that once or better.

Ad Age: Is that something that's been addressed with "Open Happiness"?

Mr. Drohan: That's one of the aims of the campaign. From the beginning we've been sharing launch plans by geographic group with the other areas of the world, so people can see very early what others are doing and express interest or challenge or question or even do something as simple as making sure that the rights are bought out in advance. Some of the execution elements of getting a campaign on air, frequently, have been barriers in the past.

Ad Age: The company has been consolidating its global agency roster. What has been the impact of that?

Mr. Drohan: We're looking at more continuity than we are change, in terms of the roster. We're constantly trying to make it more efficient, but it isn't a radical move. We have 200 countries so there are still a lot of local agencies that do a lot of local work whether it's promotion or local advertising.

Ad Age: Certainly, having global campaigns is more cost effective. Where are those cost savings being redeployed?

Mr. Drohan: Yes, overall, it is more cost effective to have work that travels. It's our intent, at the moment, to reinvest that into marketing.

Ad Age: How do you measure success?

Mr. Drohan: A critical measure we would look at [to determine] the effectiveness of our work is how many countries it travels to. But just because we make a global spot doesn't mean it has to run in all 200 countries. Local market validation with market research is critical, not just to measure the effectiveness of each campaign in each individual country but also to improve our learning going forward. So if we have a piece of work that seems to travel very well to half of the world, how can we make it travel further? Or what could we learn from the research [about why] it didn't travel? Do we need another piece of local work to complement that or could that have been solved by looking at the brief slightly differently?

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