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‘Always’ intact amid Coke shake

Peter Sealey has resigned as senior veepee of Coca-Cola, the soft drink giant announced Wednesday, marking the departure of Creative Artists Agency’s point person on its ambitious “Always” campaign for Coca-Cola Classic.

Replacing Sealey at Atlanta-based Coca-Cola will be independent consultant Sergio Zyman, who worked for the Atlanta-based company from 1979 to 1986, and now becomes its chief marketing officer.

Sealey exits at a key time for the CAA campaign, with no reports released yet on the efficacy of the ads.

After announcement of the shift, Coca-Cola executive veepee M. Douglas Ivester reportedly moved quickly to quash speculation that the carbonated conglomerate was uncertain over the CAA-spearheaded project.

Ivester told reporters Wednesday that Coke remains committed to the talent agency’s campaign for 1994 — a crucial disclosure that would put CAA in the driver’s seat for a second wave of soft drink salesmanship.

In addition, Coca-Cola recently disclosed that it would spend more than $ 20 million on radio time for the “Always” campaign — a key indicator that the Coke company thinks the CAA commercials will add life to its sales.

Sealey’s resignation comes after he spent more than than nine months at the center of an intense advertising industry debate sparked by the October disclosure that CAA had wrested the majority of work on the current Coca-Cola Classic campaign from advertising agency giant McCann-Erickson.

McCann-Erickson came up with the “Always” slogan behind the current campaign, and continues to fill such administrative functions as media buying on the Coca-Cola account. But reports of friction between McCann-Erickson and CAA have remained constant throughout the relationship.

At the time CAA’s Coca-Cola Classic account was launched, Sealey championed the campaign as a harbinger of “a new media reality in the world today,” where audiences no longer have to watch advertising unless they really want to.

CAA designed 24 of 26 Coca-Cola television spots, including those that feature the work of such directors as Richard Donner, Rob Reiner and Phil Joanou. The commercial campaign kicked off in Feburary.

CAA chairman Michael Ovitz, and CAA co-captains on the Coca-Cola account Len Fink and Shelly Hochron could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.

Sealey is no stranger to Hollywood. His career included a stint as worldwide marketing president of Weintraub Entertainment Group and a run as president for marketing and distribution for Columbia Pictures Entertainment that began in 1987. He is expected to open a marketing consulting business in Atlanta and San Francisco, according to a Coca-Cola release.

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