OGILVY TO WORK ON $50 MILLION MILLER BEER ACCOUNT

Move Seen As Harbinger of J. Walter Thompson's Ouster

By Published on .

BOSTON (AdAge.com) -- After three years of disappointing sales results for Miller Genuine Draft,
Miller Brewing Co. has asked Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, to work on the brand, according to two people close to the situation. Ogilvy is agency of record for Miller Lite.

The $50 million account for Genuine Draft until Monday night had been at WPP Group sibling J. Walter Thompson, Chicago, which the brewer has pushed to get marketing and advertising on track.

For now, JWT will continue to work on Genuine Draft, though the move is viewed by industry insiders as a harbinger that a shift is in the offing. Ogilvy has had Lite since Thompson landed Genuine Draft without a review in 1999.

'Still have a chance'
"[JWT is] still on

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the business. They still have a chance," one of the executives said, though noting those chances were slim. JWT is working on the next round of ads for "Pure MGD." (That campaign replaced a series of ads that distributors criticized for their sexually explicit storylines. While distributors like the "Pure" positioning, executions fizzled.)

In an effort to salvage the business, JWT has changed branding and creative leadership during the past year. Matt Canzano became group creative director on the brand last year when creative chief Dennis Ryan left to launch Omnicom Group's Element 79 Partners. Rick Kemp succeeded Mr. Ryan as executive creative director. The agency then tapped Don Durbin from AOL Time Warner in Detroit to replace account director Eric Lefton, who left the agency in May after he was reassigned. Another executive, Bob Merlotti, was let go in May.

MGD volume down
While advertising for both brands has been criticized by distributors and industry participants, Ogilvy's Lite work has been better received than JWT's. Genuine Draft volume fell 8% from 5.9 million barrels in 1998, the year before JWT won the account, to 5.4 million barrels last year, during which time industry volume was up 3%, according to Beer Marketer's Insight. Ogilvy, however, did preside over Lite's slump from the country's third most popular beer brand to fourth place.

Miller spent $50 million in measured media last year, compared with $55 million the year before it landed at JWT, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

JWT and Ogilvy won the business because of their Kraft Foods connections to Philip Morris Cos., which owned Miller at the time. The agencies referred calls to Miller, which declined to comment.

South African Breweries recently acquired Miller from Philip Morris and formed SABMiller, the world's No. 2 brewer after Anheuser-Busch Cos.

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