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(June 19, 2001) MONTREAL -- Molson Breweries, Quebec Division, has put the account for Molson Dry, Quebec's best-selling beer, up for review, and it's shaping up to be a real battle.

While Canada's major beer companies are notoriously close-mouthed about ad budgets for their brands, industry estimates place Molson Dry's budget at more than $6.5 million.

The account has been with Publicis, Montreal, since 1994, and has been highly involved in sponsorship and promotional initiatives. It recently took three gold awards at Canada's top French-language advertising and promotion awards (the Coq d'or awards, sponsored by the Publicite-Club de Montreal).

Whether the departure of Steve Crawford, VP-creative director on the account, played a role in the decision for a review is unknown. Mr. Crawford was a casualty of the recent creative department cuts by Publicis, which essentially got rid of most of its creative team and brought in an entirely new creative group under the name M7 Publicis. (Mr. Crawford has just been named VP-creative director at Academie-Ogilvy, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide's agency in Montreal.)

Publicis will be pitching to hold the account against the Montreal offices of Cossette Communication-Marketing and TAXI Advertising & Design, both of which also work for Molson. Cossette handles the Molson Export brand and TAXI handles Rickard's Red and Molson's 'Drive Safe' program.

Cossette, Canada's largest independent agency, has long been the nemesis of Publicis, taking from it major accounts such as Metro supermarket chain and newspaper La Presse in recent years.

TAXI has strong status in Toronto and has recently set about rebuilding its office in Montreal, site of its founding but with a skeleton staff in recent years. Now acting as consultant for TAXI, Montreal, is Jean-Jacques Streliski, former president and chief creative director of PNMD Communication (now BBDO Montreal and an agency for Molson's chief rival Labatt), who in the past headed creative for BCP (Publicis) in Paris and Cossette in Montreal.

A decision is expected by September. -- Gail Chiasson

Copyright June 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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