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Don't look for Sergio Zyman's resignation from Coca-Cola Co. as chief marketing officer, and the appointment of Charles Frenette as his successor, to produce a quick change involving the company's advertising agencies; the sales numbers look too good. But don't expect things to stay the same either; nor should they.

Coca-Cola Co. is no longer the marketer that once had just three large global agencies -- Interpublic Group sisters McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Lintas Worldwide and Lowe Group. Its roster of agencies grew to double-digit length as the number of its brands expanded -- brands such as Surge and Citra that weren't around 10 years ago.

True, Coca-Cola probably doesn't need an agency for each brand. But it would be also difficult to return to managing its vast brand portfolio with just two or three shops -- even global ones.

Before Mr. Zyman announced his departure, Coca-Cola consultants had begun assessing its agencies' brand capabilities. That project is ongoing and could result in a pruning of the roster, although the company denies that's the intent. But we urge the new marketing chief to look closely at the flagship brand.

Coca-Cola likes to think strategically, in terms of what's good for the brand. And while the hydra-headed agency approach on Coca-Cola Classic seems to have worked, judged strictly by sales, the strategic direction the brand has followed did not come from the free-wheeling Hollywood types who have done much of the "Always" ad work. And that's what seems to be missing now as the original concept has changed and and even more shops are involved.

Although the company's volume growth continues to outpace rival Pepsi-Cola Co., Coca-Cola would benefit from making some of its agencies the sort of marketing partner that can provide long-term strategic thinking as well as top-flight creative.

Introducing `Best Agencies'

With this issue, Advertising Age introduces a new Special Report, "The Best Agencies," that includes several new features we believe readers will find valuable. To do this, we separated this new report from our 54th annual "Agency Report," which will include our exclusive rankings and financial data for the top 600 U.S. agency brands and the world's top 50 advertising organizations. The "Agency Report" will appear in the April 27 issue.

The "Best Agencies" report that begins this week following Page 36 is anchored by our choice as U.S. Agency of the Year, TBWA Chiat/Day, recognized for its differently thought-out creative and its new-business tear. This selection mirrors that of our monthly sibling, Creativity, which named TBWA Chiat/Day its Agency of the Year earlier in '98. Also mentioned are the Agency of the Year selections of Advertising Age International and Business Marketing.

In another first, Ad Age is leveraging its strength as the only truly global marketing magazine to name our first-ever Global Agency Network of the Year, an award reflecting the increasingly worldwide nature of the agency business. It goes this year to DDB Needham Worldwide for its excellence in harnessing its strategic and creative resources around the world for the benefit of clients.

You'll also discover in this issue agency reviews outlining the creative, financial and management strengths and weaknesses of 24 top U.S. advertising agencies.

These new features reflect Ad Age's continuing effort to increase and sharpen our coverage of the advertising business. As long as it keeps evolving, so will we.

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