WPP takes lead on new Coke effort

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WPP Group agencies are taking a greater role than expected in Coca-Cola Co.'s massive Coca-Cola Classic 2003 campaign.

Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York, initially tapped to contribute ideas on the flagship, appears to be producing the brand's upcoming "Real" push, while sibling Ogilvy & Mather, New York, will handle "brand integration," described as iconography, graphics and design, for the effort.

Production companies vying to create the TV spots are submitting bids to Berlin Cameron rather than Coke Classic agency Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, according to an industry executive, suggesting that the WPP shop is taking the lead role. Berlin Cameron is also said to have conceived all of the approved spots.

The integrated campaign will feature average Joes, actors and possibly celebrities. The effort will kick off with four to six TV spots, 10 to 15 print executions, outdoor boards, Internet ads and a summer promotion. WPP's Ben Marketing, Atlanta and Stamford, Conn., and Interpublic's Momentum are handling the brand's summer promotions, according to two people familiar with the push. Momentum did not return phone calls. Ben declined to comment, as did Ogilvy.

Berlin Cameron could not be reached for comment, and Coca-Cola declined to comment. But in June, Steven Heyer, president-chief operating officer, Coca-Cola Ventures, downplayed Berlin Cameron's role on Classic.

"Berlin Cameron has developed insights into the youth market that we think may be relevant to advertising for Classic. We have therefore asked Berlin Cameron, working through Interpublic, to share these insights so we can explore whether they should be incorporated into ongoing development of the Coke Classic work," he said. "Interpublic is and will remain the agency of record for brand Coke."

collaborative effort

A Coca-Cola insider, meanwhile, said, "Ads are a collaborative effort. McCann has a person at the table who is as much a part of the decision-making process as anyone on the team."

The new campaign will feature young people interacting with buddies and engaged in other activities designed to strike a chord with viewers, said one person who's seen the story boards. "It's real moments with real [young people] ... real moments they can relate to," he said. "It all comes back to real."

Though other "Real" ads may feature actors and musicians, "It's far from a celebrity campaign," said another person familiar with it.

no jingle

The "Real" tagline could appear with other words specific to particular executions. The campaign will involve music, but not a syrupy jingle, said the person who had seen the storyboards. Coke first used "The real thing" as its tagline in 1942.

The brand usually consumes half to one-third of Coca-Cola's annual ad spending, but the Atlanta soft drink giant has held back this year. Interpublic has been unable to win Coca-Cola's approval for a successor to the 2001 "Life Tastes Good" campaign that featured images of friends and family. The campaign was seen as inappropriate after Sept. 11, 2001, and was pulled months after its debut.

In the first seven months of the year, Coke Classic spent $54 million on U.S. media advertising-about half its take in similar time frames, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. Classic received $156.1 million in all of 2001, according to CMR.

contributing: kate macarthur, lisa sanders, rich thomaselli

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