Coca-Cola denies it is turning its back on a 60-year relationship with McCann-Erickson WorldGroup after it shifted US media duties out of the Interpublic Group unit.

The beverage behemoth this week tapped Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest to handle its consolidated $350 million (€297m; £206m) stateside media account. The decision is a blow to Universal McCann, which took part in the review and was incumbent on the buying duties.

Since Coke shifted its flagship US creative account from McCann-Erickson to Berlin Cameron/Red Cell earlier this year [WAMN: 07-Feb-03], there have been rumours of a deteriorating relationship between the client and Interpublic.

However, David Raines, the drinks firm's North American vp of integrated communications, denied the company was giving up McCann: "They still have a lot of our business in a lot of countries around the world."

The decision to choose Starcom confounded expectations that the media account was destined for WPP Group's MindShare, which also took part in the review. It was thought an existing relationship between Sir Martin Sorrell and Coke president/coo Steve Heyer would work in MindShare's favour.

Coke opted for Starcom in part because it wants to investigate new ways of reaching consumers. Added Raines: "We will be doing a lot of experimentation and testing of new forms of technology and communications throughout next year."

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff