Grey has put in place five U.S.-based executives to lead The Coca-Cola Company account globally, it revealed on Wednesday.
Hope Nardini joins as global executive creative director and creative lead on the account. She was most recently at Droga5 as a creative director, where she was recognized as part of the Creative Team of the Year
at Campaign US’ 2023 Agency of the Year Awards.
Raig Adolfo also joins as global head of strategy from Saatchi & Saatchi, where he was president and chief strategy officer. Both are Grey boomerangs.
Meanwhile, Brian Weston, a veteran of Grey for more than 10 years and most recently EVP, global account director, will join the team as global client lead. David Toussaint, who joined Grey as global head of strategy for Coca-Cola last year, will move into the role of CX lead. And Beth Rolfs, chief data officer of Grey New York, will take on the role of global data lead.
The team will work exclusively on the Coca-Cola portfolio, pulling in talent from across Grey’s global network to work on different briefs.
They will report to Thiago Cruz, chief creative officer at Grey NY, and Gabriel Schmitt, global chief creative officer of Grey Group. Nardini has a dotted line to Open X chief creative officer Andrew Keller.
According to Cruz, the new team will allow Grey to “rebuild its approach” to working with Coca-Cola in order to “really invest in this partnership moving forward.”
The new structure will support Coca-Cola in achieving the vision it laid out when it selected WPP as its global marketing partner in a $4 billion review in 2020. That involves shifting 60% of its work to digital and incorporating more experiential work, as well as creating global consistency while localizing creative to each market.
In 2021, WPP created a bespoke agency called Open X to service the account.
For Grey, having a global leadership team in place for Coca-Cola allows the agency to mimic that model and pull in talent as needed on a regional basis quickly and efficiently, according to Weston. The five executives will be involved in all of Grey’s work for Coca-Cola while creating “bespoke squads that are going to be able to deliver on the needs of those briefs depending on where that brand is located and where the clients are located,” he said.
“That's very similar to how Open X in general is set up,” he continued. “We are simply a microcosm of that within an operating company.”
While creative, strategy and account management are obvious needs for the business, bringing in CX and data was critical to “push the boundaries of what marketing can be” and “interrogate things from every angle,” Adolfo said.
Weston added that despite the desire to work with global talent, having a North America-based leadership team is important, as Coca-Cola’s “center of gravity” is in Atlanta, where it is headquartered.
Currently the new team is working on a brand platform for Schweppes, as well as a new partnership between Absolut Vodka and Sprite launching next year. According to Weston, agencies within WPP will sometimes pitch for different Open X briefs for Coca-Cola, or they are awarded the work directly.
“Whether they’re super big, whether they're small, how the assignments are given, really, really depends on the circumstance,” he said.
For both Grey and WPP, the model represents a new way of working and is constantly evolving.
“There is some learning that is going on in terms of how to do this,” Weston admitted. “But having this kind of collaboration and agility at scale … we know that in terms of the way we operate, it really is the future.”
“Being able to tap into a huge global network from some of the best of the best is also very creatively compelling,” Nardini added.
Cruz added that while not every client requires a dedicated leadership team — in fact, for some clients, more leadership creates more bureaucracy — but the scale of the Coca-Cola business requires dedicated support.
“There’s something exciting and scary about working with The Coca Cola Company,” Adolfo said. “You're talking about high-profile brands that are super creative, that are part of culture and have so much magnetism. On the other hand, they have seen everything … When you have a model like this one here, it's a core group of people who are trying to create stuff that hasn't been done before, because these folks have seen everything.”