Coke Looks Past Lowe Diet Caffeine-Free Could Find New Home

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Coca-Cola Co.'s complex ties with Madison Avenue are taking a new twist on the Diet side as it comes down to the wire for 1995 ad plans.

Lowe & Partners/SMS is finishing executions for Diet Coke's new campaign-now definitely rethemed "Just for the taste of it"-as the cola giant prepares to split Caffeine-Free Diet Coke from the main diet brand.

"They're splintering one assignment so that other agencies can get a shot at the work," said an executive close to the beverage Goliath.

One industry executive said a move had been considered to lighten Lowe's soft-drink load while it prepares some 20 executions-only a fraction of which will actually air early next year-to show Coca-Cola Chief Marketing Officer Sergio Zyman.

The assignment shuffle is consistent with Mr. Zyman's affinity for a la carte agency relationships.

Lowe & Partners executives are said to be unenthusiastic about resurrecting Diet Coke's former, Lintas-created taste tagline, an about-face made at Mr. Zyman's behest.

Lowe executives are still tinkering with new versions in a creative department recently divided into two account groups, one dedicated almost completely to the estimated $150 million to $175 million Coca-Cola account. Lowe also does ads for Fanta, Minute Maid, Sprite and juices such as Five Alive, Hi-C and Juices-to-go.

"We're not going to reveal the advertising strategy for 1995 for Diet Coke," a Coca-Cola spokesman said. "... We've made no announcements about a change in agency assignments." But agency sources say other shops are being considered for Caffeine-Free, already said to have promotional projects at Ross Roy Communications, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and Fresh Perspectives, Armonk, N.Y.

Coca-Cola last year spent just more than $1 million on measured media for Caffeine-Free.

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