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Jonathan Mildenhall quits as ad boss of Coke as Wendy Clark takes top marketing job

A few days ago Wendy Clark emerged as the Coca-Cola marketing supremo, rejoicing in the title of president – sparking and strategic marketing (you couldn’t make it up).

Unknown-5Now former British adman Jonathan Mildenhall (Mother etc, left), senior VP integrated marketing communication and design excellence (ad manager to you and me), is leaving to become CMO of Airbnb, a travel business that rents out houses globally.

Which seems like a bit of a come-down, but renting houses, apartments and so on is a business with a big upside as people tire of over-priced hotels.

Clark, who was previously in charge of something important at Coke (it would take Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes to make sense of all the company’s daft job titles) has a big job on her hands.

Some people would argue that Coke’s marketing (advertising anyway) has never been better. It has used its extensive roster of creative agencies cleverly to produce some outstanding campaigns – winning the Cannes Advertiser of the Year gong last year for the first time. The driver of this was Mildenhall.

Unknown-6Have Clark (left) and Mildenhall fallen out? Does she see a different future for Coke advertising? Could be neither of course, but she’ll be aware that Coke, still mainly dependent on sweet, sugary drinks, is getting nowhere with consumers globally. Artsy ad campaigns may not be doing the business.

The reality is probably that nothing can; Coke is a 20th century success story that will find it difficult to survive the 21st century.

That won’t stop agencies queuing up to knock on Clark’s door. A slowly reviving McCann might wish to remind her of the days when Coke taught the world to sing.

Unfortunately life ain’t that simple anymore but we wish Mildenhall and Clark the best of luck.

Update

My spies tell me that Airbnb, which rents rooms in houses as well apparently, is likely to seek an IPO in the next year – valuing the online service at up to a dizzying $10bn.

Which may well explain Mildenhall’s decision to go there as, presumably, some shares are on offer.

Internet stocks are taking a right old pounding at the moment (Twitter is down about 18 per cent as employees get the chance to sell their shares) so it’s possible that Mildenhall and Airbnb (think of another name Jonathan) have misjudged their timing.

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airbnb coca-cola featured Jonathan Mildenhall Wendy Clark

About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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