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Noorings: Lessons from the Coca-Cola India media pitch

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Noorings: Lessons from the Coca-Cola India media pitch

When the Coca-Cola India media pitch was announced, it had sent a surprise-wave (if not shockwave) in the industry - us included, btw. The reason was the long-standing relationship between Madison Media and Coca-Cola India – a partnership that was quoted as an example when client-agency relationships were discussed in industry conversations. If the pitch call was surprising, the decision was shocking.

As our readers would recall, exchange4media broke the news on Friday, August 6, 2010, and ever since then, every single conversation I have had with industry folks has been about this pitch. One of the discussions (of course) was on the account size itself. We were told that the business is pegged at Rs 270-300 crore, and not Rs 200 crore as we had put and some international reports had taken. Apologies – I unfortunately have nothing to say in our defence, except that someday clients will realise competition already knows their advertising spends, and for accuracy’s sake, they should divulge it to the media as well.

As fascinating as these parts of the conversations were, only one aspect interested me the most. And that was the manner in which the pitch was conducted.

The professional approach began right when the Coca-Cola system was reviewing agency relations in India earlier in the year. Once it was identified that the media duties had not been reviewed in a long time, which did not exactly adhere with the ‘once-in-three-years’ process of the company, Coca-Cola’s India and global officials got busy.

Right from the start, Coca-Cola was very clear on which agencies would be a part of the pitch. Hence, no GroupM. Absolutely no PepsiCo or competition affiliation was allowed. It is also understood that only after the first list of agencies was sent to the global office, and Sarah Armstrong, Director, Worldwide Media & Communication Operations, The Coca-Cola Company, was reviewing it, did all the international Coca-Cola agencies – Starcom Worldwide, Carat and Lodestar UM - become a part of the pitch. Prior to that, one agency of these three was missing. TME’s involvement indicated that Coca-Cola was open to the idea of Indian agencies participating (WPP is only a minority stakeholder in the Rediffusion Group), and the entire list also meant that Coca-Cola was clear it was speaking to a limited number of agencies rather than a laundry list, but perhaps that particular point is true of all large professional advertisers.

Once the agencies were decided on, Coca-Cola invited all agencies together at the same time for a joint briefing. The client was upfront and stated that it was not that they were unhappy with Madison Media, but were following a company process through this review. After that, the client gave all the agencies precisely six weeks to prepare – nothing more, nothing less. The agencies presented the required documents after that. And before the presentations took place, the Coca-Cola team - including Indian and global officers - visited the Delhi offices of each of the agencies. One has always heard about clients visiting agency offices being more important than agencies visiting clients offices, after all, the chunk of the work would happen from the agency’s office. That Coca-Cola had this as a part of the process added to the extreme professional approach of this pitch.

The pitch presentations were held from August 3, 2010 to August 5, 2010. Coca-Cola had informed the agencies that the results would be announced by mid-August. But the client managed to surprise the agencies when it finalised and announced Lodestar UM as its media AoR on August 6, 2010. As part of the process, the handover from Madison to Lodestar UM will happen by September 30, 2010.

When one is largely hearing about how a client took three months over a pitch or made cost all important or other such stories, the discussions on the Coca-Cola pitch are refreshing. Indeed, a thing or two that people can learn from this pitch.

Also read:

Coca Cola India appoints Lodestar UM as media AoR; ac size upwards of Rs 200 crore

Coca Cola India puts Rs 200-cr media biz on review


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