Dentsu's Vizeum Wins U.S. Media Duties for AB InBev

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The AB InBev Anheuser-Busch Budweiser Brewery in Saint Louis.
The AB InBev Anheuser-Busch Budweiser Brewery in Saint Louis. Credit: Courtesy of AB InBev

Dentsu Aegis Network has emerged as the big winner in Anheuser-Busch InBev's global media agency review, with its Vizeum agency taking over media planning and buying duties in the U.S. from WPP's MediaCom. Vizeum also won Canada, Europe and Africa, giving it the largest chunk of media duties for the world's largest brewer.

Elsewhere, AB InBev will spread its business among three other holding companies. WPP's MediaCom will handle Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and several Caribbean countries. Publicis Groupe's Starcom will oversee China, South Korea, Japan, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador. Omnicom's PHD won Australia, Vietnam and India.

AB InBev is the 19th-largest U.S. advertiser, spending $1.9 billion in 2016, according to the Ad Age Datacenter. Globally, the brewer ranks as the eighth-largest advertiser with $4.8 billion in spending, as of the end of 2015, according to the latest data tabulated by the Ad Age Datacenter. The consultant on the review was MediaLink while Media Path handled auditing.

The brewer kicked off the review in April with goal of trimming its media agency roster to drive more consistency across the globe. Agency selection for media planning and buying had previously been managed locally or regionally. The brewer had been using eight agencies spanning six holding companies. Now, the roster has been pared to four agencies from four holding companies. The goal was to consolidate duties within each one of the brewer's nine geographical zones to a single agency.

"We have now completed the review of our media planning and buying capabilities globally to reduce complexity and structure our approach to marketing into a more consistent operating model," a spokeswoman said in a statement. In the U.S., "we want to thank Mediacom for their work and partnership over the years, and are pleased they will continue to support our business in other regions globally."

The spokeswoman cited Dentsu Aegis Network's "strong national and local capabilities" as well as its "passion" for AB InBev brands and business. "As we evolve our media-buying strategy and implement a more data-driven approach, they are the best strategic partner to help us deliver this."

The pitch process focused on "data leadership, the future of marketing and partnering together on a new client agency model," Nigel Morris, chief strategy and innovation officer for the Dentsu Aegis Network, said in a separate statement provided by AB InBev. "We are about innovating the way brands are built in the digital economy."

The brewer was a founding client of Vizeum's global network three years ago in Europe, said Thomas Le Thierry, global president of Vizeum. "We've built credibility in their organization by delivering on our commitment year after year," he said in the statement. "We are a young network with a vision for how to accelerate AB InBev's business growth through media."

The review followed AB InBev's $103 billion acquisition of SABMIller, which closed last year and significantly expanded the brewer's global footprint. Some 500 beer brands are now under AB InBev's control globally.

In the U.S., the brewer has struggled to grow its two largest brands, Budweiser and Bud Light, amid competition from spirits and craft brews. But globally, the brewer's strategy of selling more higher-priced beer in more places is paying off. International revenue increased 5% in the second quarter. In China, revenue jumped 7.2% thanks to strong sales of Budweiser.

Dentsu Aegis—whose groups include Carat, Dentsu, iProspect, Isobar, McGarryBowen, Merkle and Vizeum—saw organic gross profit growth decline by 2.7 percent in the second quarter. Dentsu Aegis Network named former iCrossing Global CEO Nick Brien as the CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network Americas and U.S. in June. Brien, known for his background in digital, arrived as the network seeks to become a "100 percent digital economy business by 2020." In September 2016, Dentsu announced that in the U.S., Vizeum would become a business unit within 360i.

Contributing: Megan Graham

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