Diageo Hands Jose Cuervo Creative to Crispin Porter & Bogusky

Moves Tequila Account from JWT Without a Review

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Spirits giant Diageo has shifted creative advertising for its Jose Cuervo tequila brand to Crispin Porter & Bogusky from WPP's JWT, which had the business for only a year, executives familiar with the matter said.

A Diageo spokesman declined to comment on the move, which comes without a review. Crispin representatives declined to comment.

Diageo varies in the way it assigns ad accounts to different shops; it's been known to hold lengthy review processes, yet at other times has suddenly handed accounts to agencies. The move to Crispin, an agency not on its roster, is significant, as Diageo often calls upon shops it already works with to take on new assignments. Most recently it handed duties for another one of its tequila brands, Don Julio, to longtime agency Grey after a pitch.

For Crispin, the win means a return to the alcohol category after nearly two years without such an account. Top executives at the agency, with offices in Miami and Boulder, Colo., earlier this year unsuccessfully appealed to take part in Heineken's review, which wound up being limited to New York-based agencies.

The agency worked on Miller Brewing Co.'s business from 2005 to 2007, but had a nasty parting with the beermaker after its campaign for flagship Miller Lite -- which starred a cadre of B-list celebrities such as Burt Reynolds debating "Man Laws" -- flopped. A smaller effort for Miller High Life was more successful and has been continued by two successor agencies on the brand.

The last major push for Cuervo by JWT, a campaign dubbed "Live Notoriously Well," also gave a nod to Mr. Reynolds. In a spot that plugged Cuervo's Platino line, the campaign's hero gets into a nightclub under the name Burt Reynolds, giving a skeptical bouncer a fake business card with that name.

In Cuervo, Crispin gets a brand that is in a difficult position. The tequila category last year saw divergent trends at different price points. Both superpremium and low-end brands saw robust growth, but premium and above-premium brands suffered sales declines. The bulk of Cuervo's business is in the latter, more-challenged categories.

According to TNS Media Intelligence, Diageo in 2008 devoted a total of $25 million in domestic measured media to the Cuervo brand, but for the first six months of 2009 has spent about a fifth of that figure.

That steep drop in spending is represented across Diageo's entire portfolio of booze brands, which include Johnnie Walker whisky, Guinness beer and Captain Morgan rum. The spirits giant has dramatically slashed its U.S. marketing budget; in 2008, it spent more than $160 million marketing but in the first half of 2009, has only spent $44 million according to TNS.

Diageo has said that the deflation of media pricing has allowed it to slash spending without dramatically reducing its exposure or hurting sales.

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