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Hires Former Marketing VP as Consultant; Vigorously Defends C2

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CHICAGO ( -- Coca-Cola Co.'s chief marketing officer, Chuck Fruit, has commissioned several ad agencies, including non-roster shops, to proceed with creative development for the brand's iconic and soccer work. And more agencies could be added in the future, he said.
Coke is bringing in more ad agencies, including non-roster shops.
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Defends C2
In an interview with, Mr. Fruit, who was named to his post in June by Chairman-CEO Neville Isdell, vigorously defended the company's new C2 soft drink. The mid-calorie brand has been the subject of widespread cynicism throughout the industry.

Hires consultant
He also confirmed he has retained former Coke marketing head Peter Sealey as a consultant. The news was first reported by Beverage Digest. Mr. Sealey, now an adjunct business professor and co-director of the Center for Marketing and Technology at University of California-Berkeley, will advise Mr. Fruit on "how we develop our overall marketing capabilities," Mr. Fruit said. Mr. Sealey was senior vice president for global marketing for the beverage giant from 1990-94 and led the development of the "Coca-Cola Always" campaign.

As he detailed his use of new agencies, Mr. Fruit downplayed any potential threat to roster shops. "We're not out looking intentionally to multiply the number of relationships we have," he said. "Agencies are too important to change on a random basis, so I look upon our agency partners as just that, not people with whom we do transactions but people we have a business relationship with on an ongoing basis. Having said that, as our needs change and our portfolio increases, the likelihood increases that we'll be looking for some new agencies to join the fold."

Mr. Fruit said the agencies that would be working on Coke's so-called iconic brand advertising and the brand's sponsorship of soccer are Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson, Spain, and McCann Erickson, London (working on separate initiatives); Publicis Groupe's Publicis, New York; WPP Group's Berlin-Cameron/Red Cell, New York; independent Mother, London; and Internationale, Germany. Internationale has not previously worked on Coke's roster.

Agency networks
Several of the agencies are pulling resources from elsewhere in their networks, with the lead shop being those listed. Meanwhile, independent Wieden & Kennedy, Amsterdam, is leading an integrated program including soccer-related advertising in Europe, Latin America, Asia and possibly North America, Mr. Fruit said.

The company's new ads are scheduled to begin breaking in the second quarter. Mr. Fruit declined to provide an update on the status of contenders for holiday 2005 advertising campaigns.

He also denied speculation he has been meeting with agencies outside of Coke's roster for ideas on the Coke brand, but left the door open that new agencies could join the roster.

Esther Lee
"Generally, that's not something I do but having said that, Esther Lee is our chief creative officer and I would be surprised if she isn't constantly keeping herself abreast of new agencies, their capabilities and the work they've been doing. I consider that routine business for Esther."

He said he considers himself to be a "facilitator or orchestra leader on advertising in general and our relationships with agencies," and that the company should be "up-to-date on new capabilities and new agencies that we should be paying closer attention to."

About hiring Mr. Sealey as a consultant, Mr. Fruit said: "He brings three things to the table. A deep knowledge of the Coca-Cola Co. and brand, a familiarity with best practices at a lot of other companies around the world, and an enormous marketing intellect. That's a pretty good trifecta for an outside partner."

More spending for C2
About C2, he said Coca-Cola now plans to shift more money into advertising efforts to support the product. "You should expect substantial support behind C2 in 2005," Mr. Fruit said, without sharing marketing spend figures. "The brand was greeted very favorably by consumers and there continues to be strong consumer indicators for the brand."

He wouldn't comment on future advertising creative but called the C2 TV spots produced by Berlin-Cameron/Red Cell as "some of the best work we've done in recent years."

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