Coke's nine-month search for 'iconic' ad effort falls flat

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Coca-Cola Co.'s quest for an "iconic" advertising campaign has fizzled.

For nine months, the beverage marketer has kept agencies feverishly at work developing transcontinental creative meant to be youthful, inspirational and uplifting. But a half dozen or so spots presented at an internal preview in Argentina early last month failed to impress Mary Minnick, Coke's new exec VP-president of marketing strategy and innovation, according to three knowledgeable executives. Now there's talk of a second pitch for creative ideas.

An executive who saw the spots said they came off preachy and heavy-handed with too little relevance to the Coke brand. One, said to be from Mother, London, showed young people kicking down doors and hurling doors out of windows in an apparent reference to breaking down boundaries. Another, believed to be from Publicis, showed a South American funeral as the voice-over noted that the number of people who show up at your final send-off indicate how well you've lived your life. The coffin is then shoved off a cliff and swallowed by a giant fish. Yet another, said to be from a Mother office in Japan, uses a stuttered freeze-frame effect to string together pictures of Japanese women running to give a Coke to someone.

Coke executives earlier identified the agencies tapped for the iconic work as Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson, Spain, and McCann Erickson, London; Publicis Groupe's Publicis, London and New York; WPP Group's Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York; independent Mother, London; and Internationale, Germany. Not every agency presented work at the Argentine meeting.

Oddly, Coke does seem to have one iconic ad in hand-but it's not from an agency given the brief, it's not intended to run globally and it's not for the base brand.

Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, last week shot a remake of Coke's famed "Hilltop" spot for the June 27 launch of Coca-Cola Zero. Set on a Philadelphia rooftop, it features soul artist G-Love strumming a guitar as a multicultural cast choruses "I'd like to teach the world to chill."

A Coca-Cola spokesman could not be reached for comment at press time; its agencies didn't return calls for comment.


A half dozen or so spots presented at an internal preview failed to impress Mary Minnick. One exec said the spots came off as preachy and heavy-handed.

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