McCann Parts Ways With Cuervo

Agency Says It Has Resigned Tequila Account

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Jose Cuervo Rolling Stones ad
Jose Cuervo Rolling Stones ad 

Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann says it is resigning the Jose Cuervo creative account nearly two-and-a-half years after winning the tequila brand.

"Today we notified our Jose Cuervo client that we have decided to end our relationship," McCann, New York President Chris Macdonald said in an internal agency memo today obtained by Ad Age. He added that "there are a variety of factors, including financial, that led to our decision and this has not been taken lightly. We want to thank Cuervo for the opportunities they have given us over the past two and a half years and wish them well in the future."

A McCann spokesman confirmed the move to Ad Age but did not comment further. Scott Green, who is the chief marketing officer for Jose Cuervo distributor Proximo Spirits, said "we will be conducting a search for a new partner to continue growing our Cuervo business." Mr. Green, who joined Proximo about three months ago, said that the marketer "recently informed [McCann] that we were not going to give them our Bushmills business," although he declined to elaborate further on how that decision was linked to McCann's exit from Cuervo.

Proximo and Cuervo are both controlled by the Beckmann family of Mexico, which gained control of Bushmills Irish Whiskey in 2014 from Diageo as part of a larger transaction.

Mr. Green said that Bushmills is not currently working with an agency but said the assignment would be announced soon. The McCann spokesman declined to comment on the Bushmills situation.

Mr. Macdonald hinted that McCann would be pursuing other alcohol business, saying in the memo that "the great news is that there are lots of opportunities across the spirits and beer categories … get ready!"

McCann won the account in July 2013, the same month that liquor marketer Proximo Spirits took over U.S. distribution of Cuervo from Diageo. Media spending on the brand increased slightly in 2014 to $10.3 million from $8.7 million in 2013.

Cuervo is the largest tequila brand in the U.S. with 30.6% share as of Oct. 4, according to IRI, which does not include bar sales. Cuervo sales jumped 7.4% to $117 million in the 52 weeks ending Oct. 4, according to IRI.

In his memo, Mr. Macdonald listed several projects led by the agency, including sending a margarita to space for National Margarita Day, painting an interactive mural for "Write Your Cinco on Cinco de Mayo," and delivering the "spirits category's first participatory graphic novel." He said the agency "helped Jose Cuervo stem its decline, and in the two and half years that McCann has worked on the business, the brand is again on the rise -- up almost 9% through October of 2015."

In September, McCann helped create a new retro Rolling Stones-themed ad that harkens back to the band's 1972 tour. The tour later became known as the "The Tequila Sunrise Tour." That is a reference to a Cuervo cocktail the brand says was poured at a private party in San Francisco before the tour began. But the song used in the spot, "Miss You," wasn't released until 1978 -- six years after the 1972 tour that the ad features.

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