The Coca-Cola China account has been put up for pitch, however, the exercise has been clouded by the fizzy drink giant's recent appointment of the Interpublic Group (IPG) to develop a global communications strategy for its flagship Coke brand.

Three agencies are battling for the account, estimated to be worth upwards of USdollars 13 million annually. They are IPG's McCann-Erickson, and Bcom3's Leo Burnett and D'Arcy.

While D'Arcy is the AOR, Burnett has been responsible for the main thematic work and McCann has been appointed to work on the upcoming Chinese New Year promotion.

The pitch aims to consolidate the account into one agency.

However, there is concern over how non-IPG agencies will operate under the IPG umbrella and also how this will impact Coke's new "Think local, act local" strategy.

While firm answers aren't likely soon, it is believed that Coke is attempting to give itself a more consistent image through a single "brand architecture" as it emphasises local branding across more than 125 markets globally.

"We don't yet know what these brand stories are going to look like, but it's a common sense thing to do to avoid chaos," said worldwide D'Arcy chairman and chief branding officer Susan Gianinno.

"What they are doing is similar to building a brand vision of sorts and I imagine it to be conceptual, which means interpretation and adaptation will be allowed on a market-by-market basis rather than local agencies becoming simple executors of ideas," she told MEDIA.

It's a message that Coke has relayed to its roster of agencies worldwide since appointing IPG. IPG consists of McCann, The Lowe Group, Draft Worldwide, Initiative Media Worldwide, Octagon Sports Marketing and the Allied Communications Group. Together they will work with Coke to determine how best to communicate the brand in local markets, given a global context.

But industry sources said that the global assignment could give IPG agency networks an unfair advantage in the years to come.

But D'Arcy worldwide president and CEO John Farrell disagreed, saying that Coca-Cola's new set-up represented the spreading of a new trend first seen in North America just a few years ago.

He said: "All agencies, including us, are increasingly getting into assignments that are really more about brand consultancy, not just a communications execution."

Mr Farrell pointed to Sprint in the United States, which has had three agencies, including D'Arcy, over the past few years.

"The assignment (for Sprint) called for the construction of a brand architecture and at one stage we had the responsibility to brief other agencies on the work to be carried out. But, initially Sprint had three agencies and three years on, it still has three agencies.

He added: "It really does depend on the nature of the conceptual architecture that's developed, and the client is really the ultimate arbiter of how they want to see that infused and working market-by-market with their agencies."

Leo Burnett's Asia-Pacific business development director, Charles Edwards, also said local markets would ultimately determine local strategy. However, he believed the arrangement with IPG was only related to the US market for the time being.

"As far as we have been advised, IPG is related to the US only to explore ways to reassert Coke's brand essence. That doesn't include developing ads, but concepts which could lead to advertising ideas," he said.

By: admin


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