Hands-on marketer: Heyer calling for Coca-Cola executive

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Coca-Cola Co.'s elevation of Steven J. Heyer to president-chief operating officer was no surprise. However, executive shifts on its account late last week at Interpublic Group of Cos. were, and the holding company is working to shore up the relationship with one of its most demanding and high-profile clients.

Mr. Heyer's promotion was followed one day later by the news that William Grogan, Interpublic's well-respected director of Coke brands and McCann-Erickson Worldwide's exec VP, was poised to join AOL Time Warner's Global Marketing Solutions group (AdAge.com QwikFIND aao28d). His wife Lori Senecal, McCann's director of account management, will replace him.

Mr. Heyer's ascension adds fuel to reports that Interpublic's hold on the account is shaky, considering he already has handed Coca-Cola Classic's 2003 advertising campaign to a WPP Group agency.

It's too early to count Interpublic out. "There are a lot of pieces in this relationship, and one piece alone won't disrupt the relationship, but you have to watch and see how it plays out," said Alexia Quadrani, managing director of Bear Stearns. She said she does not expect Coca-Cola to discard its half-century relationship, but Mr. Heyer's history with WPP Group "is probably worth something."

Coca-Cola had no comment.

initial efforts

Because Mr. Heyer has been so involved in the $400-plus million U.S. marketing budget since joining in March 2001, his initial efforts are expected to focus on acquisitions, cutting costs, boosting efficiency and improving bottler relations.

Interpublic and WPP executives said that while the Coke-Interpublic relationship may be weaker, they do not expect Interpublic to lose all its Atlanta business. Creative, however, could wander. Coke's "Real" campaign via WPP's Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York, breaks in early January.

"If they're not scared, they should be," one Interpublic insider said. "If Red Cell nails it ... it will have a significant effect on" Interpublic.

Celebrities including Lance Armstrong, Penelope Cruz as well as Courtney Cox Arquette and husband, David, have signed on for "Real," according to people in the production community.

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