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Creative Agency Models Globalization

Guillermo Vega wants to build a ‘new golden era of advertising’ for Coca-Cola


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

October 14, 2022 | 9 min read

Continuing our Globalization Deep Dive, we catch up with Ogilvy’s global creative network lead to hear how he and the OpenX team plan on fulfilling WPP’s promises to its mega-client.

Guillermo Vega of OpenX

Guillermo Vega joined WPP’s OpenX team a month ago from Saatchi & Saatchi / Ogilvy

Coca-Cola is one of the biggest accounts on WPP’s books. The corporation spends around $4bn a year on marketing, much of it going through the holding company’s tangle of agencies. It’s so important to the group that, upon winning the business last November, it created a bespoke agency team called OpenX, which combines media, data and creative capabilities to serve the soda giant’s marketing needs.

For a client with such a reputation and legacy of great advertising, the success of WPP’s work will be judged in no small part on the quality of its creative output – meaning that Guillermo Vega probably has one of the most stressful jobs in the industry. He is in charge of connecting OpenX to Ogilvy, where much of the creative produced for Coke will come from, but he ensures us he doesn’t feel the heat.

“I thrive on pressure. Pressure is fun – if you know how to take it. And life causes bigger problems than your job.“

Global role

While he’s based within Ogilvy New York, Vega will spend the foreseeable devoted to Coca-Cola. He describes the OpenX team, rather grandly, as an “integrated output machine” and explains: “What I do is activate all the Ogilvy capabilities; I’m based in the Ogilvy office, I work with Ogilvy a lot on specific projects, but I’m a nexus between OpenX and Ogilvy.”

The choice of who would lead OpenX’s creative efforts had remained open for months following the client appointment. But the chance to return to New York City, as well as the opportunity to work on such a major brand alongside his friend and former colleague Javier Campopiano of Grey, made Vega determined it would be him. He has been in post for just a month so far.

During his four years at Saatchi & Saatchi in London, Vega was part of the team behind campaigns such as ’Hope United’, the anti-hate crime campaign that brought together British sporting stars from across teams, generations and disciplines, as well as a unique EE activation at a packed Wembley stadium and an Apple Watch spot that saw a man’s tech-enabled doppelgänger lead him through the streets of Los Angeles.

That posting in London followed a series of moves between Buenos Aires (Y&R), São Paulo (W+K) and New York (72andSunny). Though he’s delighted to return to Manhattan, his new position is set to be very different to previous roles.

“It has a level of seniority that requires me to connect with all our different regions, but at the same time, I’m closer to the work – which I like. It’s refreshing because I did the other job, running a group, multiple times. It requires me to be flexible and open-minded and also work collaboratively. But modern marketing requires you to be open to all disciplines and ways of working.“

In the words of Ogilvy global chief creative officer Liz Taylor, Vega is a “champion of ideas that travel”. It’s a particularly relevant qualification for the Coke job, where he’ll be coordinating creative work across 200 countries and five product categories, as well as global activations around the football World Cup and the Olympic Games.

Vega’s 15-strong core team is based in New York, covering creative and strategy. But he has direct reports in India, Pakistan, Australia, Mexico and New York. “It’s a global operational footprint. Depending on the brief, we’ll plug in different people from different places.“ And given the variety of time zones, finding time to keep up isn’t always easy. “The sweet spot is seven: 7pm and 7am meetings.“

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Creative solutions

The nature of the role is not the only thing that’s different. Coca-Cola’s brands require a vastly different approach to that which produced its famous advertising heritage – a legacy that includes ‘Hilltop’ by McCann Erickson, possibly the most famous TV ad of all time.

“The key element now is working around experiences and how people really live their lives,“ says Vega. “It has to have a hybrid execution including activation elements, social media, digital elements. And we’re going hard on experiences – things that people will remember after watching, but not necessarily an advert. It could be that famous hilltop, but it’s way more complex than that now.“

If there’s any part of Coke’s marketing history Vega plans on looking back at for inspiration, it’s a relatively recent one from Ogilvy’s own locker – ‘Share a Coke’. “Even today other clients ask, ’Can you do something with my product that pushes sales or makes it famous like it did for Coca-Cola?’ From the outside, it’s the type of work that makes you envious – you end up hating the people who created it. Now I’m working with them.“

Bolstering the company’s sustainability credentials will also likely be a focus. Coca-Cola has taken some flak for its sponsorship of the Cop27 conference in recent weeks, given its status as the world’s biggest plastic polluter.

“It’s a work in progress; the brand has a commitment to keep evolving and that’s part of its DNA, to be part of the times and change as it goes. It’s one of the key pillars of the work. It has been working for many, many years on it – it’s part of its DNA and one of the things it is thinking about all the time.“

There are other challenges OpenX must help Coke meet. “How you integrate these new realities [sustainability and the need for experiences] into the work is key,“ he says, adding that the cross-agency team can deliver a new marketing epoch for the soda maker.

“There’s a feeling that, with OpenX, we can get into another golden era of advertising. Coca-Cola has incredibly famous, powerful work. And it has hills and valleys, too. I think it is ramping up to a peak now.

“‘Share A Coke‘ wasn‘t only successfully commercially, it was famous. It got to the point that people were fighting for specific names in front of shops. I bought mine back in the day and I had to search for it; people were trying to organize within families to make sure they all got their names. That‘s the kind of success we’re looking for – above the norm in every measure.“

Creative Agency Models Globalization

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