Team WPP strikes again as DraftFCB loses Coors

Miller Coors, the North American beer venture between SAB Miller and Molson Coors, has sacked long-time Coors agency Interpublic-owned DraftFCB and succumbed to the temptations of an offer from WPP to combine the talents of JWT, Ogilvy, Y&R and Grey. The account is worth about $200m.

Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi has held on to the company’s Miller Lite brand, worth around $160m, after a trial period.

Miller Coors CMO Andy England says:”Winning in premium lights [beer] is the centerpiece of our long-term business stragegy, and we’ve determined that some agency changes will give us the best chance to do exactly that. What we are looking for is sustainable, above-the-line excellence with an integrated solution.” This will include both traditional and digital marketing, England says.

There are various conclusions to be drawn from this.

One is that mass-produced beers around the world are struggling to maintain market share and profits. So they’re in the market for change, including agency changes.

Two is that DraftFCB, Interpublic’s great white hope for a network that could complement McCann around the world, is failing desperately and probably needs to be put out of its misery. The agency is a shotgun marriage between legendary Madison Avenue agency Foote Cone & Belding and direct marketer Draft. It’s never worked and both FCB (if it has any purchase left after all these years) and Draft would be better off on their own. Last year DraftFCB lost $1bn SC Johnson, its foundation (FCB) account.

Three is that Sir Martin Sorrell’s ‘Team WPP’ notion is gaining ground among the world’s biggest advertisers. Recent converts include News Corporation and Vodafone in the UK to add to Ford in the US. Other advertisers are copying it, General Motors’ CMO Joel Ewanick with his Commonwealth agency comprised of Omnicom’s Goodby Silverstein and Interpublic’s McCann and, just this week, Pepsi with an all-star team from Omnicom, headed by TBWA Chiat Day and BBDO.

WPP says it will open a new 200-strong office in Chicago to look after Coors. General Motors’ has exacted the same commitment from its new media buyer Carat in Detroit. Have account, will travel.

Essentially, these days, you’re not a big, powerful advertiser unless you get the holding companies running around like blue-arsed flies devising new structures to handle your account. Give it all to JWT or Ogilvy or even Omnicom’s BBDO? Forget it.

Which doesn’t say much for the futures of some famous agency brands.

But there you go, business is business.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.