In 2009, Quaker City acquired a stake in New England's
Narragansett brewery and the shop still handles the brand's
marketing. Last year, Mr. Grasse opened his own distillery in New
Hampshire called Tamworth Distilling, which uses local ingredients
to make gins, whiskey, vodka, cordials and other spirits. His
agency in 2015 also collaborated with E&J Gallo Winery on the
creation of Lo-Fi Aperitifs, which is described as a blend of
California wine and cold-extracted whole botanicals.
Because his agency only works on alcohol, "I can actually go in
and have an honest conversation about what is wrong with your
business," he said. "And because I actually understand your
business because I am in your business, I can actually guide you in
a way that an ad agency can't. Because ad agencies are generalists
and as generalists, you can't really help me with anything," he
He added: "So I think all these companies should fire their ad
agencies, and all the ad agencies should do what we've done, which
is to concentrate on a single industry. Now to do that these
notions of exclusivity and conflict need to go away and we've been
able to navigate that by being really good at what we do."
His pitch, although radical, appears to be working with some of
the biggest marketers in alcohol.
MillerCoors recently gave Quaker City an assignment to lead
creative and digital strategy for its Miller High Life brand, which
had been handled by Leo Burnett, as Ad Age recently reported. "One
of the reasons we like them is their understanding of alcohol and
consumers," Ashley Selman, the brewer's VP-marketing for emerging
and economy brands, told Ad Age. "We are not concerned about them
working on other alcohols."
Emma Giles, the beer brand director for Diageo's North American
beer business, echoed that sentiment. "These guys work in alcohol
so the advantage we have working with them is that they know the
market," she said.
But Diageo still values traditional creative shops that work in
various categories, she said. "There's definitely an advantage to
being an expert in an area and really getting deep," she said. But
"if you work with agencies that are working on other products or in
other categories … they bring a different way of thinking
[and] a different creativity."
MillerCoors noticed Quaker City because SABMiller, which is a
joint owner of MillerCoors, since 2012 has been working with Quaker
City on a global repositioning of its Pilsner Urquell brand. True
to form, the agency recommended changes that often had little to do
with traditional advertising, including putting Pilsner Urquell
in its original brown glass bottles. Global volume sales of the
beer brand grew 8.8% from 2014 to 2015, according to Euromonitor
But Diageo's hard soda assignment could be among Quaker City's
toughest challenges yet, considering the cut-throat competition in
flavored malt beverages. Brands in the category have a history of
rocketing out of the gate, but falling just as fast as
variety-seeking millennials move on to the next big thing.
But that doesn't faze Mr. Grasse. "We don't really look at what
is trending, and we don't really look at what our competition is
doing," he said. "We kind of do what we think will work."
"Everything we do is intuition," he said. "I always create
things that I personally like and I just assume there are other
people out there like me. And so far we've been right about