Power Players 2009

A-B's Dave Peacock Is Ad Age's No. 7 Power Player

New Owner InBev Defers to Megabrands Like Bud Light and Natural Light

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THE POWER: The U.S. is the global beer industry's largest and most important profit pool, and Mr. Peacock leads the entity that dominates it with a market share of nearly 50%. While A-B is now controlled by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer, the company's new corporate overlords have thus far largely deferred to the brand-marketing prowess of Mr. Peacock's team in St. Louis, which has propelled mass brands such as Bud Light and Natural Light to dominant positions within their categories, and, in recent years, mastered the more subtle sales tactics required to move upscale bottlings like Stella Artois and Hoegaarden.

THE NUMBERS: A-B boasts a U.S. ad budget of nearly $1.6 billion, which it uses to support seven of the 13 largest U.S. beer brands by volume. While Bud Light -- the No. 1 U.S. brand -- appears headed to its first ever annual sales decline, it still accounts for nearly one in five beers sold in the U.S. Measured media spending in 2008 was $579 million. During the first half measured outlay was up 3.2% to $274 million.

THE KEY LIEUTENANTS: Keith Levy took over Mr. Peacock's VP-marketing post when he was promoted to president, and he plays a key role in positioning brands and helping the brewer's agencies shape creative. Mark Wright, VP-media, sponsorship and activation, recently took the helm of A-B's sports marketing and media-buying unit.

THE CHALLENGE: The $52 billion debt ABI assumed under the merger has led to an arduous campaign of cost reductions, as well as departures of key longtime executives.There's also the matter of increased competition from the MillerCoors joint venture, which boasts a 30% market share that makes it one of the most significant creative threat A-B has faced in the U.S.

THE AGENCIES: Omnicom's DDB remains the dominant shop on the brewer's roster, handling the bulk of work on Bud Light, Budweiser, Bud Light Lime and the newly launched Bud Light Golden Wheat. While fees have been cut recently, DDB appears to be making up some margin losses under the new regime with volume: It recently secured global agency of record status for Budweiser, for instance. Other agencies include LatinWorks, Euro RSCG, Cannonball and Waylon.

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