AB InBev Cuts McGarryBowen, Hands Bud Light to Translation

Brand Is Biggest-Spending Beer in U.S.

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Anheuser-Busch InBev has cut McGarryBowen from its U.S. agency roster just eight months after naming the shop a lead agency for Bud Light, Ad Age has learned. Duties for the brand have been shifted to Translation Advertising without a review.

"To streamline our marketing efforts, we have decided to consolidate all Bud Light advertising responsibilities with Translation," Paul Chibe, VP-marketing for the brewer's U.S. division, said in a statement to Ad Age . "As a result, we have notified McGarryBowen we are ending our relationship. We thank McGarryBowen for their efforts on behalf of the Bud Light brand and wish them all the best."

Dentsu-owned McGarryBowen won the Bud Light account in December along with Translation after a lengthy review that included at least a half dozen agencies. Originally, McGarryBowen was assigned lead creative duties on Bud Light, while Translation was tasked with line extensions such as Bud Light Lime, Bud Light Platinum, as well as NFL-related advertising for core Bud Light.

But in recent months, Translation gained favor, winning more creative work, including a promotional spot now airing promoting the Bud Light Port Paradise Music Festival, which includes a cruise. McGarryBowen, meanwhile, struggled to win approval for its creative proposals, failing to get any TV ads on the air beyond a Super Bowl spot that ran in February.

The loss is a big setback for McGarryBowen, which had been riding high last year with significant account wins including Burger King and United-Continental airlines. More recently the agency worked its way onto Procter & Gamble's roster, winning strategic and creative work for the Aussie line of hair-care products. But in losing Bud Light, the shop let the biggest-spending beer account in the U.S. slip form its grasp. The brand spent $270 million in measured media in the U.S. in 2011, according to Kantar Media.

McGarryBowen could not be reached for comment by press time.

Like most big beer brands, Bud Light has struggled to grow volumes in recent years in the face of a weak economy and new competition from sprits and craft brews, especially among millennials. Under Mr. Chibe, who joined the brewer about a year ago, AB InBev has moved away from slapstick humor in advertising in favor of creative executions that make greater use of music. That shift has seemingly given an advantage to Translation, whose investors include Jay -Z.

Of late, Bud Light has shown some signs of life, mostly fueled by more expensive line extensions such as higher-alcohol Bud Light Platinum and Bud Light Lime's Lime-A-Rita, a margarita-flavored malt beverage in a can that was launched this summer and has exceeded expectations. On its second-quarter earnings call last week, the brewer said the Bud Light brand family gained more than 0.6 share points in the U.S. to reach 21.2% market share in the quarter.

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