Diet Coke up in air

The blockbuster news that hit Madison Avenue last week involving one of the world's most prestigious ad accounts and two leading agency names has left nothing but question marks in the Canadian marketplace.There is no news on what will happen at...

The blockbuster news that hit Madison Avenue last week involving one of the world’s most prestigious ad accounts and two leading agency names has left nothing but question marks in the Canadian marketplace.

There is no news on what will happen at MacLaren: Lintas or McCann-Erickson Advertising in the wake of the Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta’s decision to move its US$60-million Diet Coke account from Lintas: New York to another Interpublic Group company, The Lowe Group’s New York agency Lowe & Partners.

MacLaren handles Diet Coke creative here and McCann buys media for the brand.

It is not yet known where the Canadian assignment will land, but Bob Bertini, spokesperson for Coca-Cola, says it will be with a Lowe agency.

Lowe has been given responsibility for Diet Coke in all countries where English is the principal language, while Lintas:New York will continue to handle the business elsewhere.

The picture here is muddied by the other big news of last week, namely that after two years of on-again off-again courtship, the Lowe Group and WPP Group-owned Scali McCabe Sloves have finally made it to the end of the aisle and are ready to say, ‘I do.’

That would raise a whole new set of questions here, the biggest being who would run a presumably merged operation.

Would it be David Deacon, president of the Lowe Group’s Toronto operation Deacon Day?

While that agency has not built any presence in Canada, Deacon is said to have cemented close ties with Lowe executives in New York.

Or would the new agency be placed in the hands of Scali’s outspoken Chairman Gary Prouk and agency President Stephen Graham? Graham, conveniently, spent three years with Coca-Cola, joining in 1982 as a brand manager and leaving in 1985 as group product marketing manager. Graham worked on Diet Coke among other brands.

The Scali, Vancouver operation would appear to be relatively unaffected since it reports directly to Scali, New York and has been flourishing on the West Coast on its own.

Whatever the outcome in Canada, the Lowe Group appears a big step closer to founder Frank Lowe’s dream of building another major worldwide agency network alongside Lintas and McCann under the Interpublic banner.

It has been uncharacteristically difficult in the usually porous agency community to eke out even off-the-record guesses as to how matters may develop here.

Deacon says it is too early to know who will handle Diet Coke.

The only reasonable certainty – should Lowe end up buying Scali – is that the resulting agency group would be named Lowe & Partners SMS.

Deacon Day right now only has the Braun and Prudential Assurance accounts in common with Lowe.

Scali has such accounts as Labatt Breweries of Canada, Mercedes-Benz, Western Union and Purolator Courier. PS/MS