The WPP shop MediaCom has been selected to take care of US media planning and buying duties for Anheuser Busch InBev, the brewing giant whose brands include globally recognised beers such as Budweiser, Bud Light, Stella Artois and Beck's. The company spent an estimated $575 million on measured media in the US last year ($1.56 billion on total advertising), so it's a significant win for the London-based media agency who also recently landed the $150 million Merck business.
A-B InBev spent an estimated $575 million on measured media in the US last year
The announcement arrives after a review process that began back in July and included OMD, Vizeum and Spark Communications, a sibling agency to the Publicis Groupe's Starcom, who were enlisted to assist Anheuser Busch InBev with internal media planning and research back in 2011, and were reportedly the other finalist shop in the review. Starcom themselves did not defend their assignment. At the time of writing, executives at Anheuser Busch InBev and MediaCom could not be reached for comment. The brewer had been splitting the business between Starcom and their own in-house group, Busch Media (buying) until now.
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The US review also follows a series of media pitches outside the US. After a six-month review, the brewer also consolidated its European media business covering nine key markets with its UK shop Dentsu Aegis. It' also holding separate reviews in various regions, including Mexico and Canada. The US review follows the appointment of Jorn Socquet as US vice president of marketing, the former head of marketing in Canada, who replaced Paul Chibe, the executive who signed up Starcom back in 2011.
A-B InBev are rumoured to be eyeing up SABMiller and soft drink makers PepsiCo
The announcement arrives at a time when the brewer are rumoured to be eyeing up fellow brewers SABMiller and soft drink makers PepsiCo. Apparently, AB InBev, who are based in Leuven, Belgium, have long been studying whether a merger with Pepsi would make strategic and financial sense. Ali Dibadj, an analyst at Canford C. Bernstein & CO. says that “Form a strategic perspective,” it doesn't strike him as too crazy. He says “If you look at the strengths of AB, they're very clearly around cost-cutting and distribution, particularly in a difficult volume environment like beer,” and he thinks “Those could be translated pretty directly to the Pepsi business in the North American marketplace.” Sachin Shah, a special-situations and merger-arbitrage strategist at Albert Fried, agrees, thinking AB InBev should think beyond the beer market. He said “Anheuser-Busch should become a drinks business, rather than just alcohol and beer.” Of course, this is all speculation; no talks are happening now and no deal is imminent. But it would certainly be an interesting move.
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and musician from Kidderminster in the UK. As a beer drinker, he firmly believes that A-B InBev should stick to their guns and stick with what they know.