Heineken to (Finally) Break New Work From Wieden

Beer Marketer Says Long-Delayed Effort for Flagship Brew to Get Increased Spending

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- It took more than a year, but Heineken lager is finally getting its first campaign from Wieden & Kennedy.

The new work from Wieden & Kennedy for Heineken lager is set to break in late January.
The new work from Wieden & Kennedy for Heineken lager is set to break in late January.
The iconic import beer, which has been struggling amid a tough economy that has been driving consumers toward discount brews, is finally set to break a major ad push in January, which will include major buys during the National Football League playoffs. The buy apparently also includes major-market spot buys during the Super Bowl. (Brewers cannot make national buys because Anheuser-Busch has beer category's exclusive rights for the game.)

Good news to distributors
The brewer broke the news in an e-mail to distributors, who have been hankering for a new marketing platform for the brand for months. In the communication, it said the new campaign will get a $7 million increase in TV support over 2008 levels. Heineken hopes that largesse -- and possible pullback from rivals -- will help it recover from a weak second half this year in which sales declined.

"At a time when many advertisers are dialing back media dollars, we'll come out swinging with new work that will reposition and drive equity in our flagship brand for the future," Heineken stated to wholesalers in the note, which was first reported by trade publication Beer Marketer's Insights.

"I was encouraged when I got that e-mail," said one major-market Heineken wholesaler, who added that he has seen double-digit declines for Heineken's brands this year. "They've been out of sight, out of mind [with consumers]. We've had a tough year with them."

A Heineken spokesman said it was "premature" to discuss specifics of the campaign, so it is not yet known whether the work includes a shift in positioning.

Agency moves
The green-bottled lager has been without a fresh campaign all year since Heineken abruptly shifted the account to Wieden from Berlin Cameron last December without a review. (Wieden had been a finalist in the protracted review won by Berlin only nine months earlier.)

While Wieden did produce ads for Heineken Premium Light and for a co-branded Krups countertop appliance called a BeerTender, the flagship lager has been stuck with recycled ads, some of which are several years old.

The delay is at least partially attributable to significant management turnover within Heineken USA, which got a new president, Don Blaustein, late last year and a new chief marketing officer, Christian McMahan, in July.

Heineken spent $136 million on measured media -- most of that on Heineken and Heineken Premium Light -- in 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

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