MOLSON FIRES MACLAREN FOR ENGLISH-LANGUAGE ADS: BREWER THROWS UP TO $100 MIL INTO REVIEW

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[toronto] Molson Breweries has fired its agency of three decades, MacLaren McCann, days after admitting its brewing profits trail that of archrival Labatt Brewing Co. by as much as $100 million.

Molson wouldn't discuss spending on the Molson, Molson Export and Miller brands that McLaren, its English-language agency of record, lost. But the business could be worth as much as $100 million. The brewer's ad budget is estimated at $140 million in total, with the bulk of that in English-language advertising.

Molson's French-language advertising assignments were unaffected.

The MacLaren firing came a month after Molson pulled the agency off a new summer TV campaign for its flagship brand themed "Here's where we get Canadian," moving the assignment to its promotions agency, Encore Encore Strategic Marketing. Encore will take part in the review.

RUNNING THE COURSE

"There wasn't any single event that caused us to do this. We're making a lot of changes here and we're looking to raise the bar on our advertising," said Richard Kelly, Molson senior VP-strategic marketing. "We came to the point where we felt we had run the course with MacLaren McCann, and we felt we were better off looking for a new relationship."

Molson sales were $1.7 billion for the fiscal year ended March 31, with profits of $161 million.

O'NEILL: CURB SPENDING

Dan O'Neill, who took over as chief operating officer of Molson in February, has gone on record saying he wants to see the company curtail its marketing spending. Analysts also have been vocal in their criticism of Molson's promotional outlays as the company battles Labatt in a head-to-head contest. Each holds about 45% of the Canadian market.

The relationship had often been fraught with trouble. Molson's corporate share of the Canadian beer market declined steadily during most of the 1990s, although the company did mark a slight increase -- to 45.3% from 45.2% -- last year.

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