DDB, AB InBev End Global Ad Contract

Move Frees Omnicom Shop to Pursue Other Beer Brands

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DDB has terminated its global contract with Anheuser-Busch InBev, freeing the agency to pursue other beer brands.

The move -- which applies to Budweiser and Bud Light -- is largely a procedural one, because the Omnicom Group agency was recently cut from the Bud Light review and has not been working on Budweiser in the U.S. for many months. But by terminating the deal, DDB rids itself from conflict-of -interest restrictions that prohibited it from pursuing other beer work, according to people familiar with the matter.

DDB declined to comment.

DDB was relegated to the sidelines for Budwesier more than a year ago when AB InBev chose Anomaly for Bud's main creative campaign, called "Grab Some Buds." Anomaly has built on that win by steadily picking up other work, including as lead creative agency for a global reality show in development called "Bud United presents: The Big Time ." Last month DDB was cut from the Bud Light review, ending its 30-year relationship with the brand.

In a statement AB InBev said: "Over the past several years we've enjoyed our relationship with DDB and appreciate the great work they delivered for our brands. Following in-depth local and global business reviews, we concluded it was time to change our creative direction on both our global flagship brand Budweiser and on Bud Light, the No. 1 beer brand in the United States. We are very happy with Anomaly 's work as lead agency for Budweiser globally; we have a disciplined ongoing creative review on Bud Light, the results of which we will announce in due course."

DDB had been active on Bud recently in other countries, including the brand's launch in Russia, as well as some work in China. But that work has now dried up. The contract termination does not apply to more local ties DDB has with the brewer on other brands in several countries. For instance, it works with AmBev, AB InBev's Latin American operation, for Bohemia beer and soft drink Guarana Antarctica. DDB also continues to work on Budweiser in Ireland, but that deal is through Diageo, which distributes the brand in that country.

It would be no surprise that DDB would pursue other beer brands, though as of now none are up for grabs that would come close to the size of Bud Light and Bud, the No. 1 and No. 2 brands in the U.S., respectively. DDB has produced several well-known campaigns and Super Bowl ads for Bud and Bud Light over time, though recent years have shown signs of a strained relationship.

DDB became Budweiser's global agency of record in 2009, a move that gave DDB the potential to introduce Budweiser in dozens of global markets, as well as create advertising for markets where Bud was already available.

But for the Bud brand launch in Brazil in August, the marketer picked local Sao Paulo shop Africa to launch the brand, rather than assign it to DDB's Brazilian outpost.

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