DDB Chicago has won the creative account for Miller Lite away from 180LA, three months after taking the digital business from DigitasLBi. But now comes the hard part: Jump-starting the nation's fourth-largest beer brand as big brews continue to struggle.
"Starting this week, we are consolidating the Miller Lite creative responsibilities at DDB Chicago," MillerCoors CMO David Kroll said in an internal memo.
"This transition will be seamless as we are keeping the business within the Omnicom family. We are moving some of the best creative talent from our previous agencies 180LA and Juniper Park, into a new team at DDB in order to have a best-in-class creative and planning team." The brewer will also be "strengthening our relationship with DDB by moving global creative for Miller Genuine Draft to DDB's London-based agency Adam & Eve," he said.
On Wednesday 180LA CEO Mike Allen told Ad Age in a statement that "no 180LA employees from any department are going to DDB Chicago or Miller Lite."
DDB is the third Omnicom shop to get a crack at Lite creative within three years. MillerCoors parked Lite at 180LA in April 2016 after cutting ties with TBWAChiat Day, which won the account in late 2014 after a pitch that included then-incumbent WPP, which had used talent from Ogilvy for the business.
Under 180LA, MillerCoors in recent months has used Miller Lite ads to go squarely after Bud Light. Ads have plugged Lite as brewed with "more taste, less calories and half the carbs" than its larger competitor. This summer MillerCoors has been running a blind taste test in bars called "Know Your Beer" in which it puts Lite up against Bud Light with a goal of reaching 500,000 consumers by the end of the season.
180LA said in a statement to Ad Age that it was very disappointed. "We have a team of world class people on their business," the agency said. "We've delivered a platform called hold 'Hold True' that's working incredibly well for them and will continue to serve the Miller Lite brand for years to come."
After DDB secured the digital account in April, the shop seemed to be in good position to eventually pick up the creative. And sure enough, MillerCoors has now pulled the trigger, giving the agency a significant win and firmly reestablishing it in the beer business.
DDB Chicago helped introduce Bud Light, now the country's biggest beer brand, when it was introduced in 1981, and remained an Anheuser-Busch agency until 2011. DDB was behind legendary campaigns like "Real Men of Genius," ads featuring the Spuds MacKenzie mascot, the "Whassup?" campaign and many ads featuring the iconic Clydesdales for Budweiser, which it ran from the mid-1990s to 2011. Of course, most of the key people who worked on the AB InBev account for DDB are no longer at the agency. So the shop has had to staff up as it re-enters beer.
These are much different times for Big Beer compared than the glory days when DDB captured attention with its Bud Light work. For one, big brewers have lost market share amid the craft beer revolution as small, regional brands gain favor with drinkers. Also, as media channels continue to fragment, it's harder to break through with the kind of big TV campaigns that build the light beer category. At the same time, wine and spirits continue to gain momentum and steal more shelf space at stores.
Miller Lite commanded 6.2% beer market share as of the end of 2016, unchanged from 2015, according to Beer Marketer's Insights.
Lite, along with other big brands, has hit a rough patch more recently.
Lite volumes plummeted 5.4% in the four weeks ending July 1, Beer Business Daily recently reported, citing Nielsen figures. But the brew still fared better than sibling brand Coors Light (down 6.7%) and Anheuser Busch's Bud and Bud Light, which Beer Business Daily reported were both "on the brink of double digit declines for the four weeks."
While volumes have declined according to third-party data, Kroll in his memo touted market share growth for Miller Lite. (The market share growth is within the mainstream light beer segment, which includes brands such as Coors Light and Bud Light.) He said Lite has gained share for 10 straight quarters.
"DDB has made great strides on the digital side of the Miller Lite business over the last month, and we feel confident that this expanded team will keep the brand on its positive trajectory," Kroll wrote. "In an increasingly competitive industry, it's crucial that we reward agency partners that share our commitment and vision for the future. We have the right brand purpose, the right brand world and the right creative to bring it all together. Now we have the right team in place to capitalize on the opportunity in front of us."
Contributing: Ann Christine Diaz