AB InBev Kicks Off Global Media Agency Review

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The AB InBev Anheuser-Busch Budweiser Brewery in Saint Louis.
The AB InBev Anheuser-Busch Budweiser Brewery in Saint Louis. Credit: Courtesy of AB InBev

Anheuser-Busch InBev has begun a global media agency review, putting in play planning and buying duties for the world's largest brewer. The incumbent on the U.S. business is WPP's MediaCom, which has held the account since late 2014.

Globally, the goal is to consolidate the business with potentially as few as one or two agencies, although the final number has not been determined, an AB InBev spokesman said. At present, the brewer uses eight agencies spanning all major holding companies to handle media operations in more than 50 countries. Every agency holding company has been invited to pitch, the spokesman said. The brewer is using Media Link as its search consultant, while Media Path will handle auditing. The process is expected to formally begin in April with the decision coming by the second half of this year.

The review comes several months after AB InBev's $103 billion acquisition of SABMiller, which closed late last year. It is common for companies to seek media efficiencies via agency consolidations in the wake of major mergers and AB InBev is no different. The brewer wants to "drive consistency in our media rates and ways of working," the spokesman stated in an email.

Agency selection and media planning and buying had previously been managed locally or regionally. The review marks "the first time we have considered structuring a significant component of our marketing capability into a more consolidated operating model," according to the spokesman.

AB Inbev is the 20th-largest U.S. advertiser, spending $1.68 billion in 2015, the latest full-year data available from the Ad Age Datacenter.

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UPDATE: An earlier version of this article said AB InBev planned to consolidate media duties with one or two agencies. The story has been updated to reflect clarification from a spokesman at the brewer that the final number of agencies after the review has not been determined.

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