In a startling about-face, Coca-Cola(可口可乐) has yanked two of its prestige brands from Interpublic Group’s Foote Cone& Belding after awarding them to the agency less than a month ago.

The estimated $20 million Dasani bottled-water account will return to its previous agency, Berlin Cameron & Partners, an independent ad firm in New York. Berlin Cameron works on other Coke brands, including Mello Yello, Mr. Pibb and Minute Maid soda. In addition, the $60 million Powerade sports-drink account will return to Wieden & Kennedy. Berlin, FCB and Wieden referred calls to Coke.

Coke made the moves in the wake of a temporary restraining order PepsiCo Inc. won against FCB thatblocks four FCB employees from working on Dasani. The quartet recently had worked on Pepsi’s Aquafina bottled-water account. “Given the legal issues FCB is facing now, we are going to continue with our previous agency and then we will reassess the situation,” says Rob Baskin, a Coke spokesman. Calls to Pepsi weren’t immediately returned.

Aquafina is the No. 1 bottled water in the U.S., with a 25% share of all water sold in convenience stores. Dasani ranks second, with a 17% share in convenience stores, according to Beverage Digest, an industry publication. Convenience stores are one of the largest channels for bottled-water sales; a national market-share figure covering all retail channels wasn’t available.

In October, FCB landed the Dasani work as part of Coke’s reorganization of its advertising business. Coke, intent on trimming its ad roster, divided the majority of its brands between Interpublic Group and London’s WPP Group. At the time, FCB alsopicked up duties for sports-drink Powerade and Aquarius, a Coke sports drink in international markets.

The Coke work was a windfall for FCB, which lost its estimated $400 million PepsiCo account in September. Brands that exited FCB in that move included Pepsi’s water brand, Aquafina; Tropicana juices; and brands associated with Quaker Oats: Gatorade, Cap’n Crunch and Life cereal.

Pepsi quickly tried to block FCB from working on the Coke brands. On Nov. 2, a Chicago circuit court judge granted the temporary restraining order. Judge Richard A. Siebel found PepsiCo “has a protectable business interest in preserving the confidentiality of its trade secrets and confidential information.”

The finding surprised Madison Avenue. Typically, when an agency is fired or resigns an advertising account in a particular category, it seeks to replace that business with a similar account. For example, in early 2000 Omnicom Group’s DDB Worldwide lostthe estimated $300 million Compaq Computer account. Earlier this year, it successfully wooed Dell Computer’s estimated $250million business.

FCB entered into a separate confidentiality agreement with Pepsi on March 28, after FCB’s parent company, True North Communications, agreed to be acquired by Interpublic Group, the ad holding company that had been selected to be “creative consultant” for the Coke brand in December. In the pact, FCB assured Pepsi “no employee who had performed services for any PepsiCo brand would be transferred to a Coca-Cola or Coca-Cola-affiliated account for at least a minimum of two years after leaving the PepsiCo business,” according to court documents filed in circuit court in Cook County, Ill. The agreement also specifies that should FCB be forced to resign the account, FCB would pay Pepsi a penalty of $20 million.

On Nov. 1 Brendan Ryan, chief executive of FCB, said in a court document that the confidentiality agreement with Pepsi “did not mean to, and did not address what might occur if PepsiCo terminated its relationship with FCB, as opposed to the other way around.”

Pepsi’s Quaker Oats unit also sought injunctive relief against FCB seeking to prevent FCB employees from disclosing Gatorade trade secrets to Coke, which makes rival Powerade.

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