afaqs!

Coke cup brims over at Bates, Kolkata

By , agencyfaqs! | In | March 19, 2001
Bates India has been awarded the advertising business of Coca-Cola for the Eastern region. A look at the rationale behind Coke's regional-level advertising


Bates India's Kolkata office has just picked up the advertising business of Coca-Cola for the Eastern region, fending off challenges from Lowe Lintas, O&M, Grey Worldwide (India) and Coke incumbent McCann-Erickson. Unconfirmed reports also suggest that Euro RSCG and FCB-Ulka too were in the fray. The account, estimated to be worth Rs 2.5 crore, was previously with Equus Advertising.

Confirming the win, Amitava Sinha, executive vice-president, Bates India, told agencyfaqs!, "Coke had called for a pitch following the move of key Equus members to Mumbai. There were two rounds of presentations, following which the client handed us the account." Sinha believes that the account came to Bates "because of our ground strength in Kolkata, and our very good understanding of the local milieu". He added that this decision on the part of Coke reiterates Bates' strength in the Kolkata circuit.

According to Swapan Seth, deputy CEO, Equus Advertising, the regional realignment occurred in the wake of Equus' suggestion that Coke move its regional business out of the agency, as it (Equus) was shutting shop in Kolkata. "We informed Coke about our decision on February 6, 2001, and we will leave the business on March 31, 2001," Swapan told agencyfaqs!

Speaking about Equus' experience with Coke, Swapan said, "We were appointed for our special understanding of the Bengali consumer, as Coke wishes to connect with communities. In fact, our commercials for Coke were the only regional commercials to be aired nationally." He is also of the opinion that Coke has done the right thing in picking Bates. "Bates, in the East, is an agency that has a pristine understanding of the Bengali, historically. I think it is a good choice as Bates has a good office in Kolkata."

Detailing the rationale behind Coca-Cola's regional advertising strategy, a Coca-Cola India spokesperson revealed that while the nation-level communication for each Coke brand is the responsibility of the respective agencies handling the brands, the company has divided the market into six regions, and each region has been vested with some authority. "Ours is not a one-size-fits-all approach," says the spokesperson. "Marketing is getting more and more local, and everywhere there are local nuances. Through this decentralization, the regional offices have the flexibility to create advertising - both ground-level promotions and support - that is relevant to the local conditions, yet in sync with the brand image. That's why we have different agencies for different regions."

Apart from regional advertising, there is retail advertising. Meaning advertising that Coke does in tandem with retail outlets across the country. For instance, there are the low-volume outlets such as Nathu Sweets in Delhi. Then there are the high-volume outlets - termed national key accounts in Coke lingo - such as McDonald's, Domino's Pizza, Hyatt and Nirula's. In all, Coke has 12 national key accounts across the country.

Naturally, the monies that ride on Coke's regional and retail advertising isn't petty by any means. If estimates are to be believed, Coca-Cola India's regional- and retail-level spends total close to Rs 15 crore! It's no surprise agencies fight tooth-and-nail for this business.

Following the appointment of Bates, Coca-Cola India's regional and retail advertising portfolio reads like this: Leo Burnett (which already has the Thums Up, Sprite and Mazaa brands) handles the Northern region and Bangalore, apart from being in charge of the entire retail advertising portfolio (national key accounts included). Triton is the custodian in the Western region, while Bates now has East.

Strangely, no one appears to be certain about which agency handles the business in Chennai and Hyderabad. While the names Takewing and Reachout were cast around, someone even suggested that Lintas had been entrusted with the job - before the Coke account moved to McCann. agencyfaqs! could not get a confirmation on this.

Interestingly, even Coca-Cola executives in Delhi appeared a trifle clueless about the Southern region. Quite some decentralization!

© 2001 agencyfaqs!