$150 Million in North America Work Shifted From Berlin Cameron

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NEW YORK (Adage.com) -- Coca-Cola Co. is moving its $150 million-plus North American flagship advertising account to independent Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., from Berlin Cameron & Partners, New York.
Coca-Cola is shifting its account from Berlin Cameron & Partners to Wieden & Kennedy.

The move comes as Berlin’s parent network, Red Cell United, part of WPP Group, competes for a hotly contested global advertising assignment for the flagship brand as one of two finalists with Wieden.

No comment
According to executives familiar with the situation, Wieden was given the nod by Pio Schunker, VP-director of advertising for Coca-Cola North America. A Coca-Cola spokeswoman declined to comment and Wieden declined to comment. Ewen Cameron, CEO of Berlin Cameron, referred calls to Coca-Cola.

In 2003, Steve Heyer, then president-chief operating officer of Coca-Cola Co., shifted the entire Coca-Cola Classic assignment to Berlin Cameron from longtime incumbent Interpublic Group of Cos.’ McCann Erickson, New York.

Mr. Heyer left Coke in 2004, prompting a series of marketing management upheavals that continued earlier this year with the appointments of John Hackett to North American chief marketing officer and Mary Minnick as president-marketing, strategy and innovation. In August, Chuck Fruit stepped down as chief marketing officer to begin transitioning to a new role as senior advisor to new media, sports and entertainment marketing and sponsorships in 2006. Esther Lee earlier this year moved from chief creative officer for North America to run Coca-Cola’s global excellence group.

Year-long search
Since Coke a year ago began searching for new advertising to reclaim the brand’s iconic status, talk has continued to surface that the North American business was up for grabs. Company representatives and management have repeatedly insisted that the search for global ideas is supplemental to creative assignments for agencies of record in the company’s largest markets, including North America.

Regardless of spin or fact over these ongoing reviews, Coke has kept all of its agencies on a virtual death-row status with the prospect that a single global effort that stuck could summarily end their run as agency of record for the world’s most valuable brand.

Minnick expands search
Coke’s earlier iconic pitch ended without a winning campaign, and Ms. Minnick had “expanded” the search with six traditional advertising contenders and two nontraditional shops. In addition to Berlin Cameron and Wieden WPP's Ogilvy & Mather; Publicis Groupe’s Publicis; McCann Erickson; and independent Mother had vied for the account. London-based Naked and Santa Monica, Calif.-based Amoeba, rounded out the agencies.

Wieden and Red Cell are now the two finalists in that search, and while no longer pursuing the global creative platform, Naked and Amoeba will continue nontraditional work to support the winning platform.

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