Coca-Cola GB has become the latest big brand coronavirus casualty after the soft drinks maker declared it would suspend all British marketing activity in response to economic changes wrought by the pandemic.
The decision will come as a body blow to some of the UK’s leading agencies including Ogilvy, Wieden+Kennedy and McCann – as well as communications agencies such as Mission, Frank and Exposure which draw a significant chunk of their work from the iconic brand, each earning a share of its giant £3.7bn global advertising budget.
The decision will heighten fears that recent reports of plunging ad spend may not represent the bottom of the market, although Coca-Cola has said it will review the situation periodically to judge when it would be best to resume spending.
A spokesperson for the drinks brand said: “In light of the serious situation everyone is facing with regard to coronavirus, we don’t believe it would be appropriate, or consistent with the current challenges and uncertainty for our consumers, to continue with the planned marketing of our brands in Great Britain at this time.
“As we all adjust to these very different circumstances, we will focus our efforts on how we can make a difference to our consumers, customers and communities in the weeks and months ahead.“
Coca-Cola is a headline sponsor of the Premier League, Euro 2020 and 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, all of which have now been postponed or cancelled in what is proving to be a disastrous year for world sport.
The worsening advertising environment was presaged by a collapse in travel brand spend but is now spreading to all sectors. The trend has affected household names such as Marks & Spencer and John Lewis, which has shut all of its stores for the first time in its 155-year history.