A-B InBev Wants Bud to Go Global, With Coke as a Model

DDB Tapped to Lead Worldwide Effort to Craft Singular Message for Iconic Brand

By Published on .

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Anheuser-Busch InBev has named Omnicom Group's DDB lead global ad agency for its iconic U.S. beer brand Budweiser, with an eye toward transforming it into a global player much like another iconic beverage, Coca-Cola.

DDB, which has handled the "King of Beers" in the U.S. since the mid-1990s, will introduce Budweiser into potentially dozens of new markets around the world, as well as create new ad programs for markets where the brand already is available. In some cases, DDB's broad marketing programs and messages will be tailored to local markets by local brand teams and agencies. (Local agency assignments for Budweiser will not be affected by the move.)

While Budweiser already has a major presence in the U.S., China, Canada and the U.K. and is available to some extent in about 80 markets worldwide, the brand is scarce in large swaths of the globe, such as Africa.

InBev regularly cited the global potential of Budweiser as a key rationale for its takeover of Anheuser-Busch last summer, noting that the potential value of creating a Coca-Cola-scale brand in beer would make the $52 billion in debt that financed the deal worthwhile.

"You could say we are thinking about [Coke as a model]," Frank Abenante, A-B InBev's VP-global brands and innovation, said in an interview. "We want the brand to stand for one thing everywhere."

For Coke, that one big thing is "happiness." Mr. Abenante said A-B InBev hasn't yet decided what it will be for Budweiser. The brand has focused its U.S. marketing of late on its self-proclaimed status as "The Great American Lager."

Coming up with a true global platform for Budweiser is, of course, an enticing and welcome prospect for DDB, which has seen its domestic margins on the account slashed by the debt-strapped marketer's ever-more-cost-conscious approach to agency compensation.

DDB hired Gill Duff, former CEO of Publicis, New York, to manage the effort as global account director. Mr. Duff, who helped Publicis land work from the likes of Procter & Gamble, Citibank and Whirlpool, left the agency last summer, saying at the time he was in talks with Publicis Groupe about working on one of its major clients.

Mr. Duff, who had run the Publicis office since 2004, seems to have found his opportunity within Omnicom instead.

Separately, A-B today named Mr. Duff's primary client contact, Jason Warner, who will be global VP for Budweiser. Mr. Warner spent the previous five years working with Beverage Partners Worldwide, a joint venture between Coca-Cola and Nestle that specializes in so-called functional beverages such as energy drinks and vitamin waters.

Most Popular
In this article: