Coca-Cola hails creative power of its brand-agencies team
The drinks giant has a team of experts to help brand managers make the most of media buying and creative agencies. This is not in-housing, but upskilling, and partners should welcome it, the company told Future of Brands Sydney.
Coca-Cola has been explaining the rationale behind its investment in a 15+ person integrated marketing communications team – the IMC – that sits between brand managers and the drinks giant’s external partners like media agencies and creative agencies.
The team is designed to bolster internal expertise, get the best out of partners and boost creativity, and Adam Ross, Content Lead for South Pacific at Coca-Cola, denied that it was an in-housing exercise when quizzed on the subject at Future of Brands Sydney last week.
Ross joined the IMC last July after 15 years working in agencies with stellar clients including Diageo, Nike, Land Rover and Unilever, and his peers have been brought in from across the agency and client world. Putting aside an internal design team, he declared: “We do not make anything in-house. I don’t have anyone making TV ads and we are not buying media ourselves.”
Ross presented the IMC as a win-win for the client and agency partners. “This is a huge investment in the craft of creativity. We add huge value internally to our brand teams. It helps us brief creatives and create and buy better work.
“We are placing a very experienced and capable team into [multiple] disciplines to work with the experts [external partners] so we can help them to help us get the best results. We have made sure we have the capability in-house to at least speak the same language [as partners].”
Ross believes the IMC provides a positive experience for the agencies it works with, saying creatives understand the frustrations of presenting ideas that are shot down by people who “do not have the experience, imagination or confidence to back themselves or back the agency."
He added: “If the creatives at the ad agency can talk to a client that has a relatively similar background, and vast experience and expertise in their craft, everyone starts to speak differently.”
Ross told the Sydney audience that his creative team has spent a lot of time focusing on why things work and how consumer decisions are made, with reference to System 1 and System 2 [gut instinct versus logic] thinking, among other things. He gave agencies another reason why they should welcome the integrated marketing communications team model.
“We need to move the conversation away from ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it’, because that is irrelevant. ‘Why does it work’ is the right conversation to have.” He implied that the IMC is never going to tell an agency creative team that ‘I just don’t like it – I prefer the colour red’, promising informed and effective feedback.
The IMC works hand-in-hand with agencies, according to Ross, and demonstrates the belief Coca-Cola has in them. It is not an attempt to diminish partners but upskill the drinks company. He inferred it will encourage boldness and prevent blandness.
This matters a lot for a company that manufactures brands first and foremost, and sells syrup to bottlers as its next most important function. Ross described creativity “as arguably the last unfair advantage that you can create”.
Focusing on the value of the IMC to brand managers, he pointed out: “In agency land people think about advertising 100% of the time but this is probably 5% of what a client thinks about. It is one part of their resource and time.
“Brand managers have to develop campaigns on top of working out distribution, pricing, promotion and new product development. It is an almost impossible task. We give them a team dedicated to the content, to the advertising. We add a huge amount of value to the brand teams and to our agency teams.”
John Moulding is editor-in-chief of Videonet