Heineken yesterday informed WPP-backed Berlin that it was moving the business to Wieden, the shop it bested in a lengthy review for the business that ended in March. That review was led by former Heineken USA President Andy Thomas, who left the brewer in October after citing differences with its Dutch parent.
Wieden actually quit that review before it concluded, leaving Berlin as the last shop standing. At the time, Wieden Chief Operating Officer David Luhr said, "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," but "[o]ur time is better spent focusing our creative energies on our current client roster."
Berlin had previously handled the largely successful 2006 launch of Heineken Premium Light, which cracked the top 10 beer imports in its initial year. The brand grew healthily in its second year, but fell short of Heineken's ambitious targets.
The two brands spent a combined $73.4 million through the first nine months of 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
"We are shocked and disappointed in the decision that Heineken has taken, as architects and partners in HPL and Draughtkeg, the two most important innovations to come out [of Heinke]) in last five years, to dismiss us in that regard," said Berlin Cameron President Bill Grogan. "The work speaks for itself, and the benefits to the brand that Berlin Cameron has brought forward are unquestionable."
A Heineken spokeswoman declined to comment. A Wieden spokeswoman could not be immediately reached.
But the shift comes as Heineken has seen its sales growth slow amid its effort to raise prices this year.
The move also marks the return of Wieden to the beer category. It created memorable ads for Miller High Life, starring the gravelly voiced "High Life Man," between 1998 and 2005.
Heineken USA's other roster shops include Euro RSCG (Dos Equis) and Richards Group (Amstel Light).