Heineken to Agencies Outside NYC: You Need Not Apply

Importer to Establish Gotham Marketing HQ and Find Agency Nearby

By Published on .

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Heineken USA's creative review has an unusual qualification for agencies: Non-New York shops aren't welcome.

In a statement confirming the review this afternoon, the White Plains, N.Y.-based importer explained that it was planning a Manhattan marketing headquarters and "is pursuing a New York-based agency in conjunction with the office move."

As a result, it's taken creative duties on its flagship Heineken and Heineken Premium Light brands, previously handled by Wieden & Kennedy's Portland, Ore., office, and placed them up for grabs between Wieden's New York office and Manhattan hubs of three agencies it has worked with previously: StrawberryFrog, TBWA/Chiat/Day and Euro RSCG.

Putting geographic restrictions on an agency search -- or, at least, announcing those restrictions -- is a highly unusual move. After all, it would disqualify creative powerhouses that don't have major beer accounts, such as San Francisco-based Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, Miami-based Crispin Porter & Bogusky and Richmond, Va.-based Martin Agency. All three have beer-category experience and no current beer clients.

"I can't recall a client saying publicly it was looking only at agencies in a certain area," said veteran search consultant Joanne Davis, who added she has worked with clients who have indicated geographic preferences privately. "Most clients say, 'I want the best in class, and I don't care where they are, because they have to come to me anyhow.'"

Of course, in these cost-conscious times, marketers may be increasingly wary of paying for their agencies to travel to them. A Heineken spokeswoman said the decision was driven by a desire to collaborate better with agencies, not to save money.

"This decision was driven by the company's desire to strengthen relationships and foster greater collaboration with agency partners as well as consumers in Heineken's largest U.S. market," according to a statement from Heineken.

It's unclear where Heineken's preference for New York agencies leaves the Dallas-based Richards Group, which handles the marketer's Amstel Light brand. That account was not among those placed into review.

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