MillerCoors has fired WPP's Cavalry three years after the holding company created the Chicago shop for the sole purpose of servicing Coors brands and new products. The brewer has put Cavalry's brands into an invitation-only review -- including Coors Light, Coors Banquet, Redd's Apple Ale and Smith & Forge Hard Cider -- marking yet another agency shift in the increasingly tumultuous beer market.
David Kroll, who is one month into the job as the brewer's chief marketing officer, said MillerCoors has invited three agencies to pitch for the business. He did not name the shops, but said none of them are within WPP. He declined to say if the brewer is considering its other roster agencies, which include Omnicom's TBWA Worldwide, Los Angeles for Miller Lite and Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett in Chicago for Miller High Life. The winning agency is expected to be chosen by mid-to-late September.
'Time for a change'
The plum assignment is Coors Light, which is the second-largest beer in the U.S., but has been stuck in a recent sales slump. The brewer spent $155.9 million on measured media on the Coors family of brands last year, according to the Ad Age Datacenter, which uses figures from Kantar Media.
"It's frankly just time for a change," said Mr. Kroll, who replaced longtime MillerCoors CMO Andy England on July 2. "My expectation for MillerCoors is that new media and consistently great creative become hallmarks for us as a company. And given that, I felt a fresh communications approach was required for Coors Light, our largest brand."
The move immediately throws future of Cavalry into doubt. The shop was created by WPP in mid-2012 shortly after MillerCoors fired DraftFCB (now called FCB). Cavalry, which employs roughly 60 people, has gained other work, including projects for PepsiCo and Tyson Foods. But the agency -- which WPP on its website describes as a "full-service agency specializing in marketing to men" -- still relies on MillerCoors for the overwhelming majority of its revenue.
Cavalry CEO Marty Stock said in email that "we're incredibly disappointed that a relationship that goes back three decades with so many successful brands has come to an end. Regime change is a fact of life in this business. We wish MillerCoors well wherever they go next."
While Cavalry has been with MillerCoors for three years, some key executives in the agency have been on Coors brands for many years. Mr. Stock, who previously oversaw the MillerCoors account while at DraftFCB, has worked on the Coors brands for 26 years.
WPP's client-specific agency model suffers loss
WPP executives have described Cavalry as part of its client-specific agency strategy, following the model of shops like Team Detroit for Ford. Cavalry handled creative, digital and Hispanic advertising for Coors brands, drawing on talent from WPP's VML, Y&R and Bravo.
Mr. Kroll said Bravo would stay on to handle Hispanic, but that the winning agency would field creative and digital.