Coca-Cola exec urges open dialogue between marketers, agencies in digital space

NEW YORK ? A Coca-Cola executive at Forrester?s Forum for Marketing Leaders urged brands and agencies to keep an open dialogue when entering into partnerships with each other, especially as the space grows more competitive and mobile cost benchmarks increase.

During the ?Assessing Agency Capabilities: The Coca-Cola Way? session, the executive discussed Coca-Cola?s methods of assessing agencies, which include offering self-assessments and providing lists of required specialist roles. She also said that asking for cost benchmarks is necessary, as ad marketing, especially in terms of mobile, costs more now than it did five years ago.

?We try to keep very high ideals on how we approach our marketing,? said Sarah Madden Armstrong, director of worldwide agency operations at The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, GA. ?We develop thought leadership, guidance and tools to share with our 2500 marketers around the world.?

Balancing dichotomies
The executive revealed the dichotomies that brands are challenged with balancing when working with new agency partners, such as evolution versus consistency, structure versus flexibility and idealism versus realism.

?How do we embrace complexity while keeping things as simple as possible?? Ms. Madden Armstrong said.

As Coca-Cola is known for its world-class marketing, it must vet its agencies accordingly and ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to consistency and developing marketing tactics.

?How you do it is so important,? Ms. Madden Armstrong said. ?We want to be known as our agency?s best clients.?

To stay competitive in the market, which is increasingly becoming permeated with rich mobile and digital strategies, brand and agencies must lean into spaces that they perhaps were not in before. This results in a balancing act of managing overlap with agencies.

Open dialogue
The executive also claimed that marketers must keep an open dialogue with their agency partners to ensure maximum efficiency. When Coca-Cola is considering working with a new company, it offers them a capabilities assessment, and a self-assessment to test honesty as well as ability.

If the agencies mention a strong point of capability or specialty, Coca-Cola may be willing to invest in the project and learn on the job alongside the agency.

Coca-Cola and MasterCard executives at the 2015 Mobile Marketing Association Forum New York urged other brands to partake in fact-based mobile marketing to insure that all facets of a company understand the potential of mobile and its wide consumer reach (see story).

After the agencies complete the capabilities assessments, Coca-Cola asks for the cost benchmark, as mobile and other digital marketing channels are now more costly than they were in previous years.

?We are definitely seeing the benefits of this focus,? Ms. Madden Armstrong said.

Coca-Cola?s commitment to excelling in mobile also landed it the title of 2014 Mobile Marketer of the Year (see story). Many of the firm?s global marketing programs provide mobile with a central role, with the added plus of localizing how mobile is leveraged to each market and demographic.

?We are carving time to have the right discussions about which agencies match the right brands,? Ms. Madden Armstrong said. ?We do set an expectation of collaboration.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York