Russian Media Link Coca-Cola Ad Pullout to Sanctions

The company canceled commercials on four large Russian TV networks.

MOSCOW – Russian media have linked Coca-Cola's decision to pull commercials from four Russian networks to sanctions slapped by the U.S. and European Union against Russian entrepreneurs and companies. The company, however, said the move was part of a shift in its advertising strategy.

As of Aug. 1, Coca-Cola said it would no longer run commercials on Ren TV, Channel Five, Domashny and Zvezda.

"Based on analysis of Coca Cola sales in the second quarter of 2014, a decision was made to make changes to the plan of advertising activities on television to focus it on key federal networks and the most effective networks for the company's brands' target audiences," Coca-Cola representative Vladimir Kravtsov was quoted as saying by the news agency NSN. "The company has always remained outside of politics."

The networks declined to comment. However, many Russian media outlets have linked the decision to the sanctions introduced by the U.S. and European Union against Russia, as Ren TV, Channel Five and Domashny are part of the National Media Group, controlled by Yuri Kovalchuk, an entrepreneur affected by the sanctions, and Zvezda is run by the defense ministry.

"[Coca-Cola] lies that the step was made based on business considerations," said the online newspaper "Three networks are linked to [Kovalchuk's] bank Rossiya and the fourth is owned by Russia's defense ministry. So the idea is that a 'democratic' drink shouldn't be advertised on 'hostile' networks."

The business daily Kommersant quoted anonymous sources in the television and advertising markets as saying that Coca-Cola's decision could be related to the sanctions.

According to the research group Media Logics, in the first half of 2014, Ren TV accounted for 11 percent of all Coca-Cola TV advertising in Russia, Channel Five for 3 percent, Zvezda for 2 percent and Domashny for 1 percent.