The Publicis Groupe-owned shop had been the lead agency on Miller Lite and the newly launched Miller Fortune. But the Miller Lite account has been at risk for a while, especially since the brewer earlier this year moved a big portion of the account to a collection of agencies within WPP.
"We appreciate the efforts and professionalism from Brent Smart and his team behind our brands," Pete Marino, MillerCoors VP-communications, said in a statement to Ad Age, referring to Saatchi & Saatchi, New York's CEO. "Any immediate needs for Miller Lite and Miller Fortune will be handled by other roster agencies, though we have a lot of current work to draw from that we recently debuted at our sales and marketing conference. We have no timetable for the longer term, and will take our time making decisions that strategically make sense for both brands."
Saatchi declined to comment. MillerCoors spent $160 million in measured media on Lite in 2013, according to Kantar Media.
The move, at least initially, would seem to be a positive sign for WPP, which began working on Miller Lite in February. The holding company is using talent from Ogilvy and Johannes Leonardo on the brand. Separately, WPP-owned Cavalry is the agency for Coors brands, as well as Redd's Apple Ale.
Miller Lite, which has been stuck in a long-term sales decline, had been getting a boost from its retro cans, which harken back to the brand's creation in the 1970s as the first mainstream light beer. But Lite's sales performance is still in negative territory. Sales-to-retailers fell by "mid-single digits" in the quarter ending March 31, MillerCoors co-owner SABMiller reported recently. Coors Light was also down mid-single digits. The brutal winter weather likely played a role, analysts have noted.
WPP shops handled a significant chunk of Lite's latest campaign, which debuted in March and includes ads that make humorous references to Lite's launch in 1975. Saatchi was relegated to a more basic campaign touting the brew's credentials, including its pilsner characteristics.
Miller Fortune launched earlier this year as a higher-alcohol line extension of the Miller mega brand. The brew, at 6.9% alcohol by volume, is positioned to compete with hard liquor as well as Bud Light Platinum. Ads by Saatchi plug Fortune for "spirited nights."
Other agencies on MillerCoors roster include Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett, which recently broke new ads for Miller High Life.