A-B EYES TIGHTER REIN ON INT'L AD BUYS: BUSCH MEDIA TO EXPAND ROLE BEYOND U.S.

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Anheuser-Busch is looking to take greater control over media planning and buying in international markets.

With an eye toward greater efficiency and building its presence around the world, A-B wants its Busch Media Group to start handling international duties within the next few years. Busch Media already has that charge in the U.S. and oversees major global media deals.

Last month, St. Louis-based Busch Media took the first steps toward the goal by taking over media duties in Puerto Rico, supplanting Lopito, Ileana & Howie, San Juan.

"I see us expanding beyond our U.S. borders," said Tony Ponturo, VP-corporate media and sports marketing and president of Busch Media.

INT'L MARKETS CRUCIAL

With domestic beer sales relatively flat, international markets are an increasingly important ingredient of A-B's schemes for growth. Last year, sales of A-B flagship Budweiser grew 18.3% outside the U.S., to about 6.3 million barrels, according to the brewer. In the U.S., sales dipped 0.6% to 36.1 million barrels, said industry newsletter Impact.

Busch Media handles all buying and planning in the U.S. while a stable of agencies do creative work. A-B could replicate this arrangement abroad. Internationally, A-B advertising is handled chiefly by affiliates of lead U.S. shop DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, a unit of Omnicom Group. Hakuhodo Inc. handles in Japan.

Hoping to clear more time for the project, Mr. Ponturo recently delegated more authority to Peter McLoughlin, VP-corporate media.

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