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Coca-Cola Creates Company, Disney to Develop Ads for Flagship Brand

November 9, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) _ Coca-Cola Co. is creating a new company to keep the fires burning under its ``Always Coca-Cola″ advertising campaign and is giving minority stakes in the venture to The Walt Disney Co. and three talent agency executives responsible for the ads.

Former Creative Artists Agency executives Shelly Hochron, Len Fink and Jack Harrower are getting equity stakes in the new company, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola said Thursday.

The trio is credited with creating more than 80 commercials run under the ``Always″ theme around the world since early 1993.

``We basically feel this will allow us to not miss a beat,″ said Coca-Cola marketing chief Sergio Zyman.

The nation’s biggest soft drink company has been taking nontraditional approaches to creating advertising for its best-selling brand for four years.

Coca-Cola hired Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency led by Michael Ovitz as advertising consultants in 1991 when Coke was being criticized for being dull. The soft drink company subsequently stunned the ad industry by deciding to let the agency take primary responsibility for creating ads for Coca-Cola Classic that began running in February 1993.

The ads have often featured a catchy jingle and fast-changing images but also might contain bucolic scenes. The computer-animated polar bears who appear to be swigging soda have been among their most memorable characters.

Coca-Cola Classic extended its lead over Pepsi in the battle for market share in the United States last year. Coca-Cola said case sales rose by 500 million around the world last year and may exceed that this year.

Ovitz left Creative Artists Agency in October to become president of The Walt Disney Co. and the talent agency has undergone some structural changes.

Zyman said Coca-Cola examined a number of alternatives for how to proceed with its ``Always Coca-Cola″ campaign and chose creating a new company.

He said Coca-Cola will be the majority owner of the venture, which will devote virtually all its energies to creating new ads for Coca-Cola Classic.

Disney was given a minority equity stake in the new company at the request of the three Coke admakers from Creative Artists Agency, Zyman said. ``They wanted to have at least some level of contact with Michael Ovitz,″ he said.

Zyman said the role that Disney and Ovitz will play in the new advertising venture will be minimal, however. He said Ovitz may simply try to help the three ad creators solidify an idea or recommend a new technique.

Fink said the link to Disney ``widens our circle a bit″ on the resources the admakers can tap to create commercials.

Zyman said the deal doesn’t affect any other relationships with Disney. Coca-Cola already supplies soft drinks to Disney theme parks, for example, but doesn’t expect a commercial rate break on ABC once Disney completes its purchase of Capital Cities/ABC Inc., he said.

Disney spokesman John Dreyer also played down the significance of Disney’s involvement in the venture. ``We have access to their creativity, while they have access to our technical expertise on the latest thinking in animation and various technologies that might help them,″ he said.

``We are not getting into the ad business,″ he said.

The new company will be based in Los Angeles and does not yet have a name.

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola will pay all the salaries and cost of the new team, Zyman said. He declined to say how much Coca-Cola is investing. He said the venture will be subject to renewal every year.

He said Coca-Cola still has a good relationship with Creative Artists Agency and may work with them in the future. Coca-Cola currently works with more than 20 ad agencies on various brands and projects.

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