Fruit stays Coke course

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With the appointment of Chief Marketing Officer Charles B. Fruit, Coca-Cola will continue betting beyond the 30-second spot-but may well shuffle marketing partners.

Mr. Fruit, a 13-year company veteran, said he won't dismantle the holistic marketing approach put in place by outgoing President-Chief Operating Officer Steve Heyer. "We're definitely headed in the right direction," said Mr. Fruit. It's "certainly something [new Coca-Cola CEO Neville Isdell] feels deeply about" and was a major part of Mr. Fruit's most recent post as senior VP-integrated marketing, he said. "That general notion is going be at the heart of our marketing."


But he was vague about the future of certain marketing partners like Rockwell Group and Creative Artists Agency-it's been rumored that both have been pushed aside under the new regime. "Each brings unique capabilities to our organization and I want to make sure that we're tapping into those as best we can."

Mr. Fruit called the "Real" campaign for flagship Coke via WPP Group's Berlin Cameron, New York, brought in by Mr. Heyer, as "on target strategically and working well with the marketplace," and the agency's work "outstanding." (Coca-Cola also works with WPP's Ogilvy & Mather on Sprite; Mother, London, for Coke and Interpublic Group of Cos.'s FCB Worldwide, New York for Diet Coke). But he added the caveat that "we're always looking for better work tomorrow than we've got today so I'm very anxious in plotting the future with them." He said he didn't expect to conduct a formal advertising review, but added, "obviously I'm looking forward to dialogue with a lot of our partners, including our key advertising agencies to share our ideas."

open doors

Longtime roster shop Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, is widely expected to benefit from its ties to Mr. Isdell and now, Mr. Fruit. "McCann is doing some great work for us in a number of major markets around the world," said Mr. Fruit, "and our doors are going be open to great work from where ever it comes."

Despite his praise of the existing marketing architecture, an executive who has long known Mr. Fruit expects changes. "Chuck knows the system," said the executive. "But, if I were Ogilvy or Berlin Cameron, I'd be wetting my pants. [Mr. Isdell and Mr. Fruit] are very IPG."

The 57-year-old marketing insider replaces Dan Palumbo, who resigned to pursue other opportunities. Mr. Fruit has been with Coke since 1991 in a variety of positions, mostly focused on media operation and led the marketer's recent media consolidation. He has been in charge of the company's global media and sponsorships and was acting chief marketing officer in 2003.

As Mr. Palumbo leaves, all eyes now are focused on Esther Lee, Coke's chief creative officer, also brought in by Mr. Heyer. Most executives close to the company speculate Ms. Lee won't stay, a move Mr. Fruit wouldn't specifically address. Ms. Lee couldn't be reached at press time.

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