DDB Chicago is poised to get back in the beer business as lead digital and social agency for Miller Lite, according to people familiar with the matter. The assignment would be significant because it would bring the Omnicom shop back into the category for the first time since it lost the Anheuser-Busch InBev account in 2011. That long and storied relationship resulted in some of the most iconic beer ads of the modern era.
DDB and MillerCoors both declined comment, likely because the agreement has not been finalized.
Publicis Groupe's DigitasLBi is the digital incumbent on Lite. The creative account is at Omnicom's 180LA, which has held it since April of last year when MillerCoors moved it from Omnicom's TBWA/Chiat/Day. A DigitasLBi spokeswoman said: "We don't comment on client business and kindly defer inquiry to MillerCoors."
DDB helped introduce Bud Light, now the country's biggest beer brand, when it launched in 1981, and handled the brand until 2011. The agency was behind campaigns such as "Real Men of Genius" and ads featuring Spuds MacKenzie mascot, as well as "Whassup?" and a many ads featuring the iconic Clydesdales for Budweiser, which it ran from the mid-1990s to 2011. Anomaly took over Bud from DDB. Bud Light has since cycled through various agencies and is now at Wieden & Kennedy.
Most of the key people who worked on the AB InBev account for DDB are no longer at the agency. So the shop would likely have to do some hiring to staff up for the business should it get the assignment.
Miller Lite's marketing in recent years has emphasized its heritage as the first mainstream light beer, with ads that put the brew front-and-center with close-up shots, without relying on celebrities or punch lines. The approach since March has been backed by a new tagline, "Hold True." One spot shows a Miller Lite can set on top of a Bud Light coaster, while a voiceover plugs Lite as brewed with "more taste, less calories and half the carbs."
Miller Lite eked out a slight volume gain in 2016, as shipments grew 0.1% as market share in the beer category held steady at 6.2%, according to Beer Marketer's Insights.
Contributing: Lindsay Stein