Whether that means the agency -- which already handles Heineken Premium Light -- won the newly consolidated account, or if Heineken intends to extend the marathon review by seeking additional agencies, remains unclear, as a Heineken spokeswoman didn't immediately return phone calls and Berlin declined to comment.
The only other finalist, Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, dropped out of the review Wednesday, citing "a difference in strategic direction" with Heineken.
'Never an easy decision'
"It is never an easy decision to pull out of a pitch after we have invested such a great deal of energy and resources over the last five months," David Luhr, chief operating officer of Wieden, said in a statement. "Our time is better spent focusing our creative energies on our current client roster."
Wieden entered the review in September, about a month after Heineken announced it was consolidating creative duties for Heineken lager, then handled by Publicis, New York, and Heineken Premium Light. A decision was expected by January, but Heineken instead asked both shops for more information.
If Berlin gets the account, it would dominate the largest ad budget in the fast-growing import-beer space.
Spending boost on Light
Berlin handled the wildly successful $55 million launch of Heineken Premium Light last year, which saw the startup brand grow into the No. 9 import, according to Beer Marketer's Insights. Heineken recently said it expects to increase Premium Light media spending to $70 million for 2007, believed to be the most ever spent on an import-beer brand.
Heineken lager, the No. 2 import in sales (behind Corona Extra) and media spending (behind Premium Light), grew by 7.3% last year.
The review did not include Heineken's slumping Amstel Light brand, which is handled by Publicis.
Wieden -- which split with Miller Brewing last summer after an eight-year run that led to the creation of the High Life Man, one of beer advertising's enduring characters -- remains on the beer industry's sidelines.
Through the first nine months of 2006, Heineken and Heineken Premium Light spent a combined $67 million in measured media, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
~ ~ ~
Contributing: Brooke Capps, Alice Z. Cuneo