Coke’s Lee to Euro RSCG

NEW YORK Esther Lee, worldwide CCO at Coca-Cola since 2005, is leaving the beverage giant to join Havas’ Euro RSCG next month, the agency has confirmed.

Lee, 48, takes a new role: North American CEO and president of global brands.

She had joined Coke in 2002 as its North American chief creative officer, reporting to then Coke COO Steve Heyer.

In a memo to Coke employees obtained by Adweek, Lee said, “My last five years at Coca-Cola have been invaluable in giving me the opportunity to redefine creative excellence, build global brands and drive growth and shareholder value. I have also had the chance to work with many of the world’s best agencies and internalize what clients really need, which has indelibly shaped my perspective on what excellence needs to be. While I leave with heavy heart, the opportunity at Euro was too compelling to pass up.”

Heyer and Lee were responsible for the “Real” campaign for Coke Classic that launched in January 2003 and was created by WPP Group’s Berlin Cameron/Red Cell. In 2005, Coke moved lead, worldwide creative duties for its flagship brand to independent Wieden + Kennedy, which created the “Coke side of life” campaign.

The Atlanta beverage giant spends upwards of $1 billion globally in measured media.

Its other roster shops include WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather, Interpublic Group’s McCann Erickson, MDC Partners’ Crispin Porter + Bogusky and independent Mother.

The Euro RSCG job, to be based in New York, is a return to the agency side for Lee, who was an svp, account director at WPP’s JWT before joining then independent Deutsch in 1993 as director of agency development and client services. (Interpublic now owns Deutsch.)

At Deutsch, she worked with Steve Heyer, who was a Deutsch client as president of Turner Broadcasting.

In March 1997, she left Deutsch to co-found an ad agency, DiNoto Lee in New York.

Euro RSCG executives were not immediately available for comment.

The French-owned agency’s clients include Charles Schwab, Jaguar, Reckitt Benckiser, Air France, Citroen-Peugeot, Novartis, Barilla, Circuit City and Citibank.

According to the agency’s Web site, it has a network of 233 offices in 75 countries.

This story updates an item posted earlier today with Lee’s official title at Euro RSCG.