Droga5 Joins AB InBev Roster, Parts Ways With Heineken USA

Agency Will Handle AB InBev's Best Damn Brand

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Best Damn
Best Damn  Credit: Anheuser-Busch

Anheuser-Busch InBev has added Droga5 to its agency roster in the wake of the agency parting ways with Heineken USA.

The shop will handle strategic planning and creative execution for AB InBev's new Best Damn brand of flavored malt beverages, an AB InBev spokeswoman confirmed. Droga5 had been working with competing beer marketer Heineken USA, handling the Strongbow cider brand as well as Newcastle beer. But the agency and the beer importer recently cut ties.

"We are changing agencies for Strongbow Hard Apple Ciders because the brand is shifting to a new global campaign that will be led by a central agency," Jessica Robinson, senior brand director for Strongbow, said in a statement to Ad Age. "The work done in partnership with Droga5 has consistently ranked among the best in the industry in terms of advertising effectiveness and recall. Over the course of the collaboration, the brand has enjoyed industry-leading growth. We appreciate the creativity and humor the Droga5 team brought to their work and hope to be able to work with them again."

A Heineken USA spokeswoman said that all work for Strongbow would be handled by the brand's global agency, Cloud Factory. A Droga5 spokeswoman confirmed the agency is no longer working for any Heineken USA brands.

Droga5 first began working with Heineken USA in 2011 when it won the Amstel Light business. The shop was tapped for Strongbow as the marketer began putting significant support behind the cider beginning in 2014. Recent Strongbow campaigns have starred Patrick Stewart. Droga5 won widespread attention for its work on Newcastle when it mocked traditional Super Bowl campaigns in 2014 and 2015. For instance, a 2014 video included Anna Kendrick complaining about how the brand promised her a Super Bowl commercial but backed out.

The digital-only efforts gained plenty of earned media despite modest paid media investment. Newcastle as a whole has not gotten much media support, with measured media spending in the U.S. falling from $83,600 in 2014 to $37,000 in 2015, according to Kantar Media. Heineken USA spent $12.3 million in measured media on Strongbow in 2015, according to Kantar.

For AB InBev, the hiring of Droga5 shows a willingness by the brewer to continue adding to its list of agency partners, rather than consolidate. AB InBev's creative agencies include Anomaly for Budweiser, Wieden & Kennedy for Bud Light and FCB for Michelob Ultra. The brewer also recently began reaching out to agencies for Shock Top, which had been handled by Anomaly. The brewer also routinely works with VaynerMedia.

AB InBev launched Best Damn Apple Ale last year and quickly followed it up with Best Damned Root Beer and Best Damn Cherry Cola. The launches come amid a flurry of new activity in the flavored malt beverage segment as brewers flood the market with new drinks that blur the lines between soda and beer. Best Damn has so far received modest marketing support. But the hiring of Droga5 hiring could signal a new wave of investment in the brand.

Contributing: Maureen Morrison

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