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Now post-merger AB InBev joins media review round

It’s already a busy year for media agencies with clients on the warpath and the media agencies themselves in hot pursuit of Google and Facebook (we all love an enemy just when we need one) and it’s going to get busier with more big media reviews.

They don’t come much bigger than AB InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, which spends at least $3bn globally on its multifarious brands. Ab InBev is the result of a $103bn merger so will be looking for cost cuts to show to shareholders it was worth all the fuss, not to mention the hundreds of millions in fees that will have swished their way to grateful investment banks for their supposedly invaluable “advice.”

Ab InBev currently uses eight or so media agencies worldwide, from all the holding companies, and all the biggies have been asked to pitch this time round. In the US it uses WPP’s MediaCom, still smarting from losing £2bn VW globally to Omnicom’s PHD, and WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell won’t want to see another big loss after as his MEC also lost $4bn AT&T to Omnicom’s new Hearts & Science.

Brewing is a highly regional business and it’s unlikely that one holding company offering will win the lot. MediaCom will presumably lead the WPP pitch while it will be interesting to see if Heart & Science fronts for Omnicom. Publicis Media has also fought back recently with a number of big US wins after a gruesome 2015.

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On this side of the pond Procter & Gamble’s £210m media review grinds on (P&G in the US was the supposedly data-driven Hearts & Science’s first client in the US). Publicis Media has the most to lose in P&G’s UK review.

Competition in media land is getting hotter with price, as usual, still the determining factor. But “transparency” is also a big issue these days with P&G’s Marc Pritchard in the van. This leaves new constructs like Hearts & Science in a strong position as they have, you might say, fewer previous convictions.

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