Coke's UK president in surprise Euro PR move

Charlotte Oades is leaving her role as president of Coca-Cola GB to take charge of the company's European PR strategy.

From 20 February, Oades takes on a newly created title - director, corporate identity, public affairs and communications - for the Coca-Cola European Union Group. She will abdicate responsibility for sales and profits in the UK to 'develop the Coca-Cola's corporate brand and its approach to corporate responsibility and engagement across Europe'.

She will report to Dominique Reiniche, Coke's most senior executive in Europe.

Sanjay Guha, currently Coca-Cola Nordics region director, is to run the GB operation.

Coke is portraying the shock move as an attempt to address the 'health and wellness debate' head on. It comes at a time when sales are suffering from its products' overall reputation as unhealthy and contributing to the childhood obesity 'epidemic'.

In a statement to PRWeek, Oades said: 'I'm passionate about the opportunity to bring my business experience to bear in this new role, driving focus and action on corporate engagement and responsibility.'

Reiniche said: 'The rapidly changing environment in which we operate has become increasingly complex. It requires us to develop a highly integrated approach across all parts of the company, to bring scalability of impact, and integrity of action, with intensity and speed.'

Oades, 45, has been Coke GB's president for just over two years. She has limited PR experience, having spent 18 years in marketing roles before becoming one of Coke's first female presidents.

However, over the past year Oades has been increasingly willing to act as a spokesperson on the food and drink industry's role in consumer lifestyle.

She said recently: 'I think there's more of an openness to talk about what we're doing. With the benefit of hindsight, we should have been more open for longer.'

Jon Chandler, currently public affairs and communications director, becomes director for strategic communication, reporting to Oades.

A statement said that he 'will also work in collaboration with global and designated EU Group leader markets to deliver a consistent corporate identity via an overall corporate communications campaign'.

Despite enjoying its status as the world's biggest brand (Interbrand 2005), analysts point out that Coke still lacks control of any of the leading juice, energy drinks or water brands in Europe, which represent the fastest growing sectors of the beverage market. Here it loses out to rivals PepsiCo, GlaxoSmithKline and Danone. Analysts have argued for some time that the company has not fully grasped this seismic shift in the beverage market.

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