Can’t beat it: CAA gets into blurb prod’n

Creative Artists Agency is looking more like an advertising agency every day.

The talent agency that Coca-Cola Co. hired a year ago as a “worldwide communications consultant” will be producing commercials for the soft drink giant, according to an internal Coke memo circulated among company marketing managers yesterday.

A Coca-Cola spokeswoman declined comment, except to say, “The memo speaks for itself.”

The internal memo from senior vice president and director of global media Peter Sealey outlined the expanding relationship of CAA with Atlanta-based Coke. It was the first acknowledgement from Coke that CAA would actually be producing advertising for the soft drink company.

Starting next week, the memo said, the company will begin a process in which it will develop a single campaign for the Coke brand. These commercials will be produced by Coke’s longtime ad agency McCann-Erickson, and, it acknowledged, CAA. Sources said the majority of the executions would be done through CAA.

The memo reflects Coke’s decision to produce spots through the two agencies. Coke will determine what gets on the air at a later date.

The memo said the spots will “break new ground in the area of visual communications.”

In some cases, the document said, “we (Coke) will fuse the experience McCann has developed in producing soft drink advertising worldwide with the additional creative resources of CAA.” The memo said McCann would continue to work with the managers on local executions and as the company’s worldwide media buyer.

A CAA spokesman also refused comment.

Although the soft drink giant and the talent agency have steadfastly denied rumors that CAA’s role would extend beyond that of a strategic adviser, rumors have continued to circulate that CAA’s role had progressed. Although Coke has never confirmed it, CAA is said to have hired “Northern Exposure” creators Joshua Brand and John Falsey, both CAA clients, to write, produce and direct a Coke commercial. In February, the company used producer Ray Stark to create a Coke commercial. It was directed by another CAA client, Joel Schumacher.

CAA chairman Michael Ovitz has been the leader of the Coke team inside CAA, in addition to co-founder Bill Haber, co-head of the motion picture department Jack Rapke and motion picture talent agent Paula Wagner. CAA hired Shelly Hochron, a former marketing exec with Columbia Pictures, for the team, plus Len Fink, a creative exec from ad agency Chiat/Day/Mojo.

CAA has long insisted that it would not steer its clients, which include some of Hollywood’s most influential talent, to Coke commercials. Coke’s creative shift to CAA is a further blow to McCann-Erickson, and its holding company, the Interpublic Group of Companies.

IPS’ various arms represent the $ 350 million-plus Coca-Cola Co. account, which includes the flagship Coca-Cola Classic, plus Diet Coke, Tab, Sprite, Mello Yello, Minute Maid and Five Alive.

Madison Avenue speculation says there could be a review of all its advertising relationships when Coke chief Donald Keough.

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