Lowdown: AB, MillerCoors Marketing Execs Trade Barbs

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The Lowdown is Ad Age's weekly look at news nuggets from across the world of marketing, including trends, campaign tidbits, executive comings and goings and more.

Coors Light's 'Climb On' campaign
Coors Light's 'Climb On' campaign  Credit: Coors Light via YouTube

As Ad Age reported earlier today, newly installed Anheuser-Busch InBev U.S. Marketing VP Marcel Marcondes took what appeared to be a shot at MillerCoors while describing the marketer's new advertising philosophy. "We are not going to create fantasy stories about our brands. We are never going to tell people to … climb mountains and things like this," he said, in an apparent reference to Coors Light's "Climb On."

Now MillerCoors is fighting back. "We are pleased to see that ABI and Marcel are finally listening and following our lead…that building brands with meaning and purpose will help return respect to American light lagers and that leadership brands need to actually talk about the beer," MillerCoors Chief Marketing Officer David Kroll said in a statement to Ad Age today. "Let's just hope they don't default again to using humor to make fun of beer drinkers or raising a meaningless mirror to generic social occasions. More cliché beer marketing from ABI would continue to be a hangover for our entire category."

Of course, MillerCoors first ratcheted up the light beer wars late last year, when it began calling out Bud Light by name in its ads for Miller Lite. The latest spot seeks to poke fun at Bud Light's NFL cans, which feature team designs.

L'Oreal has its first transgender ambassador – model and activist Hari Nef – as part of its "Your Skin, Your Story" TV, digital and social campaign, inspired by the 33 shades of True Match makeup. The first ad aired during the Golden Globe awards earlier this month, and the campaign features some existing global spokeswomen like Blake Lively and models Lara Stone, Alexina Graham and Xiao Wen Ju. Other newcomers to the L'Oreal fold include advocates for progress in body diversity Sabina Karsson and Marquita Pring, and male model Darnell Bernard, from Brooklyn but of Grenadan descent. There's a definite industry gender-diversity trend at play. L'Oreal sibling Maybelline launched earlier this month its first campaign featuring a man – Manny Gutierrez – known as Manny Mua in social media. That comes months after rival Coty's CoverGirl launched a campaign late last year featuring its first male model, James Charles.

Kia confirmed in November that it was returning to the Super Bowl for the eighth year in a row. Now we know who will star in the automaker's 60-second spot for its all-new 2017 Niro crossover -- Melissa McCarthy. The comedic actress is warming up for the Super Bowl spot by providing the voiceover for two new 15-second Kia Niro ads that broke today, including the spot below. A Kia spokesman assured Ad Age she will actually appear on the Super Bowl spot, not just do the voiceover. The campaign is by David&Goliath.

Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $5 million to settle four class-action lawsuits that accused the company of falsely advertising its baby bath products as "clinically proven" to improve babies' sleep. The suits alleged J&J knew or should have known that no studies showed the Johnson's Baby products are proven to do that. J&J continues to deny wrongdoing, and the settlement preserves its rights to use claims that its bedtime routine helps babies fall asleep faster and stay that way longer under the settlement. But it ends the litigation. People who file claims even without proof of purchase may be awarded up to $15, or those with receipts could get up to $30 from the settlement. Anything left over after that and payments to trial lawyers will go to the charities Nurse Family Partnership and Newborns in Need.

Finally, our weekly roundup of the latest marketing executive moves …

Technically Tony Rogers has been the honcho on the Walmart brand since he took over as U.S. chief marketing officer last year. But a restructuring that helps merge management across Walmart headquarters in Bentonville and Walmart.com headquarters in San Bruno, Calif., clarifies things. As it was, Walmart had never replaced Brian Monahan when he left as VP-marketing, the top marketing position at Walmart.com, last April. But in a restructuring last week that also made Jeremy King, who headed the Silicon Valley-based WalmartLabs tech development organization, chief technology officer for the whole company, Walmart clarified Mr. Rogers' role too, unifying the marketing teams at both places under him. The move aims at "providing a consistent message" regardless of where people shop, a spokeswoman said. Both Messers. King and Rogers will have responsibilities that span Walmart, Walmart.com and Jet.com, acquired last year. There have been longstanding reports from people close to the company of friction between the Bentonville and San Bruno marketing teams. The spokeswoman declined to say if the move was designed to address this.

Ann Simonds
Ann Simonds Credit: Courtesy General Mills

Former General Mills Chief Marketing Officer Ann Simonds has a new role as the interim president and CEO of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, a nonprofit organization for the arts in Minneapolis. The operator of four Minneapolis theaters is searching for a new president and CEO as founding President and CEO Tom Hoch plans to leave in early February. Ms. Simonds joined General Mills in 1995 and was CMO from 2014 until 2016. She left General Mills last month after the food marketer laid out a new global structure and said it wants to find a new global CMO. Ms. Simonds was named an Ad Age Power Player in 2016. She has been a board member of the Trust since 2011 and will serve in an interim post beginning Feb. 6. The Trust said it expects to announce a full-time president and CEO in mid-2017. "I am thankful to serve the Trust as its interim leader," Ms. Simonds said in a statement. "As a board member, I deeply admire all that Tom has done for this organization and the larger community, and I will carry on his devotion and passion for the Trust's mission." Mr. Hoch, meanwhile, moved up his planned retirement "to explore other opportunities," the Trust said. According to the Star Tribune, Mr. Hoch "is considered a potential contender to join the race for mayor of Minneapolis."

Captain D's, a fast-casual seafood chain, named Bob Kraut as its chief marketing officer. Mr. Kraut's prior restaurant marketing experience included serving as CMO of Papa John's from 2013 to 2015, and prior roles at Arby's and Pizza Hut. Jonathan Muhtar had been the Nashville-based seafood chain's CMO until late 2015. It was not immediately clear who handled the CMO duties in the interim.

Contributing: E.J. Schultz, Jack Neff, Jessica Wohl

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