Publicis Groupe Wins MillerCoors Media Business

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MillerCoors is moving its media buying and planning business from Interpublic to Publicis Groupe, concluding a review that began in September.

The entity that will handle the beer account is called Connect at Publicis Media, a Chicago-based group created for MillerCoors that will draw on talent from across Publicis Media, whose standalone agencies include Starcom; Zenith; Mediavest Spark; Blue 449; and Performics. MillerCoors' incumbent media agency was Interpublic's Initiative, which participated in the review. Initiative declined comment. The other finalist was Omnicom Group's OMD, according to the MillerCoors.

The Chicago-based brewer -- whose brands include Coors Light, Miller Lite and Blue Moon -- spent $920.8 million on U.S. advertising in 2015, according to the latest full-year data from the Ad Age Datacenter.

The move to put MillerCoors within Connect was partly driven by conflicts that exist within Publicis Media's agencies, said Brad Feinberg, senior director of media and consumer connections at MillerCoors. Mediavest Spark handles Heineken USA's media, while Zenith has Boston Beer Co., maker of Sam Adams.

"We went to Publicis and asked them to put forward what agency solution they felt was best to serve the needs on the business based on the RFP," Mr. Feinberg said. "And Connect at Publicis was the solution that they put forth after conversation they had with us about what we were looking for."

Mr. Feinberg noted that Connect at Publicis Media will be overseen directly by Tim Jones, who serves as Publicis Media regional CEO for the Americas.

In a memo to distributors, MillerCoors Chief Marketing Officer David Kroll stated: "As the largest media network in North America, including 1,600 employees in Chicago, Publicis Media has an unparalleled talent pool from which we have handpicked the team that will help us achieve our aspirations."

The MillerCoors decision was part of move by MillerCoors parent company Molson Coors to reassess its media agencies in three countries, including the U.S. (where it goes to market as MillerCoors), Canada and the United Kingdom. Publicis Groupe came out on top in the U.K., where Molson Coors opted to stick with incumbent Zenith. The brewer also stuck with its incumbent in Canada, WPP's MEC. For out-of-home, MillerCoors will continue to use WPP's Kinetic in the U.S. and U.K.

MillerCoors was previously jointly owned by SABMiller and Molson Coors. But Molson Coors took full control of MillerCoors last year after Anheuser-Busch InBev's acquisition of SABMiller. The media agency review kicked off shortly before Molson Coors completed its full acquisition of MillerCoors in early October.

The goal of MIllerCoors' media agency review was to "modernize our marketing," Mr. Feinberg said, and find an agency "that had the capability that was going to push in that direction in helping us reach beer drinkers in the right place at the right time with the right message. And Publicis really demonstrated those capabilities."

The review came to a close amid the continuing debate over media agency transparency. Big-spending marketers such as Procter & Gamble are reviewing their agency contracts to ensure they have a handle on how their money is being spent. P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard recently spoke out about how the company has made moves to ensure that agencies don't make money on the so-called float, meaning the difference between what the agency pays the media outlet and what it gets from P&G.

As MillerCoors undertook its media agency review, "we spent a lot of time in trying to adhere to the ANA/ Ebiquity recommendations from a contracting standpoint as it relates to transparency," Mr. Feinberg said, referring to transparency guidelines set forth last year by the Association of National Advertisers and Ebiquity, the auditing firm ANA hired to investigate allegations that agencies were collecting rebates from U.S. media-buying deals. "Publicis has been very receptive to ensuring that they can meet the needs of that."

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