Heineken USA Awards Digital Duties for Flagship Brands to Euro RSCG

AKQA Will Continue to Head Global Digital Account

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Importer Heineken USA is again expanding its relationship with Havas' Euro RSCG, this time handing the shop national digital duties for its flagship lager brands, Heineken and Heineken Light.

Euro, which had been working with the importer's fast-growing Dos Equis brand on both traditional and digital advertising, last year was named agency of record for the Heineken Lager and Heineken Premium Light brands following a review process involving the brewer's roster shops, including Wieden & Kennedy, StrawberryFrog and TBWA/Chiat/Day.

AKQA is the global digital agency for Heineken but is not affected by the new responsibilities handed Euro. "AKQA has the global account, which is led out of Amsterdam, but we have always had a separate agency network in the U.S. for our business," a spokeswoman for Heineken USA explained in an e-mail. The beer maker has not had an agency of record for digital marketing for Heineken and Heineken Light since summer of 2008. That shop was Publicis Modem.

Still, that Euro was able to snag digital duties signals pure-player digital shops are facing stiff competition on two ends: from big integrated agencies such as Euro and smaller digital upstarts. Late last year, IBM moved all of its digital work from Publicis Groupe's Digitas to Euro, while another major marketer, Wm. Wrigley & Co., dumped a trio of big digital shops in favor of smaller, more nimble players.

Heineken is likely not to release new creative work for a few months yet, and it will be interesting to watch what the beer maker does in the online space; it has yet to really find its stride online to connect with consumers.

The marketer doled more than $110 million in measured U.S. media spending in 2009 on its brands, more than half of it devoted to Heineken, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Heineken USA suffered through a brutal 2009, which featured months of double-digit declines by both Heineken Lager and Heineken Premium Light. While the economic climate and the corresponding light traffic in bars hurt all import brands, Heineken's trends were generally worse than its fellow mega-importer, Corona parent Crown Imports.

Total sales for the Heineken USA, which also include red-hot Dos Equis and Tecate, as well as Amstel Light, fell about 8% during the first three quarters of the year.

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