The spokesperson told Ad Age that the company is "undergoing a global marketing transformation to become more data-driven, enable deeper consumer understanding, create better products and campaigns and, most importantly, to engage consumers." According to AB InBev, the company hired consultancy MediaSense to help "develop a new Data & Media Operating Model."
The AB InBev spokesperson explained, "to successfully continue our marketing transformation," the company determined "it was most advantageous to retain our media agencies partners and their talents working on our account."
What exactly the "global marketing transformation" entails is unclear but one person close to the business said AB InBev is working with its current agency partners on a process that involves "significant investments" in evolving its creative and marketing efforts.
MediaSense declined comment.
The AB InBev spokesperson claimed that the negotiations surrounding contract renewals with its media agency partners were carried out internally, as is standard practice, and that the company "didn’t engage with media agencies to start a review process at the global nor at the regional level."
AB InBev concluded its last global media review in 2017, when Vizeum won the majority of the business: media planning and buying duties in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Africa.
Still, people close to the matter claimed AB InBev had engaged MediaSense late last year to conduct a global media review before the pandemic struck.
Campaign, citing a brief it had obtained, reported in December 2019 that AB InBev was preparing to put its global media business in review. The document, according to Campaign, stated that AB InBev invested more than $1 billion in media across more than 50 markets at the time and was looking to finalize its "global media assignment contracts" by September 2020.
Campaign also reported, citing people close to the matter, that the purported upcoming review would be a global media consolidation play and that AB InBev was demanding "punishing payment terms" aimed at cost cutting.
AB InBev denied those claims in a statement to Campaign: "We do not have an open media review. Moreover, we do not comment on false or misleading speculation about our RFPs or their commercial terms."
In May, AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito said the company would be cutting its media spend in the U.S. as it battled sales declines caused by the closure of bars and restaurants during the pandemic. “We are taking a hard look at sales and marketing,” Brito said on an earnings call, noting that the company would shift investments “in channels and products that consumers are demanding more,” including larger beer packs, e-commerce and in-store activity.