ATLANTA: The Coca-Cola Company and Weber Shandwick have mutually agreed to end their 15-year relationship, due to what both parties are calling a client conflict, PRWeek has learned.
The conflict arose in January when WS helped execute a campaign, called Think About Your Drink, for The Milk Processors Education Program (MilkPEP).
In a statement given to PRWeek by Coke, the company said, "Weber Shandwick conducted work on a program for another client that was a direct, inappropriate, and misguided attack on our industry. While unfortunate, this should not overshadow the productive, long-standing relationship we had with the agency. We appreciate the outstanding work the people of Weber Shandwick have done on our behalf and we wish them the best."
Coke and WS have worked together on a project basis over that 15-year period.
In a January 8 press release from MilkPEP announcing the campaign and outlining the findings of a study on US beverage consumption called "What America Drinks," the organization stated: This in-depth analysis of what we've been drinking revealed that beverages supplied nearly a quarter (22%) of our total calories - with nutrient-poor, sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, and presweetened teas, as the largest contributor.
It went on to say: "The new beverage consumption study results show that nutrient-poor, sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks provided more calories to an adult's diet than any other beverage category. Yet, these ‘stealth' calories could often be overlooked by Americans. Experts say that nutrient-poor, sweetened beverages are a problem not only because of the empty calories they contain, but because they can push nutrient-rich beverages out of the diet - including lowfat and fat free milk."
In response to that report, Coke released the following statement: "The Coca-Cola Company provides a wide variety of beverages - as well as many portion sizes - to meet consumers' needs for fun, refreshment, nutrition, and hydration for all lifestyles. We believe the dairy industry should use the funds they are given by dairy farmers to focus on the merits of their own products rather than denigrating other products."
Andy Polansky, president of WS, said, "We have always had and continue to have enormous respect and admiration for The Coca-Cola Company, and we're proud of the work we have done for them recently and over the years."
WS has worked with MilkPEP for 12 years.
Coke has a number of dairy products in its portfolio. The MilkPEP board runs the national Milk Moustache "got milk?" campaign.