Cannes marketer of the year Heineken drops Wieden+Kennedy – how does that make sense?

Heineken and Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam are parting company, just in time for Heineken to collect its ‘Creative Marketer of the Year’ gong at Cannes.

This is something of a long service medal (Coke won it last year after, like, decades) but, even so, Heineken’s timing is piquant.

W+K produced the long-running ‘Open Your World’ campaign, a new take on beer advertising which, while sometimes seeking its own orifice, helped to reposition Heineken as a premium brand. Much as Stella Artois is currently trying to do with Mother.

As usual with these changes – think BBH losing Diageo – the result is loads of corporate guff.

Heineken says: “After five years this is a good time to go our separate ways. We have enjoyed a strong and effective partnership. Now it is time to move on for both W&K and Heineken.”

W+K says: “We are very proud of the creative body of work we developed for the Heineken, Heineken Light and Desperados brands. But in this business, change is more of the norm than the exception and it is time that we each go our own directions. We leave with great respect and admiration for Heineken and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavours.”

As usual in these matters the account switch follows a change of client, in this case one Jan Derck van Karnebeek becoming CMO of Heineken in place of Alexis Nasard, who’s leaving the company. Is this a sensible way to do business?

W+K has a history of doing outstanding work for clients and then losing the business. It’s happened to them in the US with Chrysler and Levi’s, among others. Sounds like an account management problem to me: Frank Lowe’s genius was to persuade/browbeat clients into buying stuff they barely understood. But it worked, not least with Heineken back in the CDP era.

Heineken is now off to Publicis Worldwide (mostly), the flagship creative agency of Publicis Groupe, under pressure on all fronts in the US. Did Maurice Levy have a word with Heineken?

Are clients really serious about buying – and staying with – top notch creativity? It’s a high wire act and most of them don’t have the nerve.


  1. In the words of that Mad Man D. Ogilvy, it isn’t creative unless it sells. Heineken’s results have been somewhat south of stellar. And the advertising was for the most part, as you say, “seeking its own orifice.” Loads of fun to shoot, no doubt, but sound and fury signifying not a hell of a lot. A far cry from “Heineken refreshes the parts …”

  2. Brenda hits the nail on the head. The current Heineken spots may have been fun to shoot… Not to mention costing a shitload of money, but compared the the “Refreshes” campaign they are rubbish. If it was up to me, I would lock all the current BDC clients of the BDA’s in a room and do a “Clockwork Orange” on their eyeballs making them watch the great old spots from CPB, DDB, AMV, O&M, B&B, Ally, TBWA, Messner, etc, etc ‘Till their fucking eyes bleed. But then again, I am a masochist, so I would enjoy it!!!
    Cheers/George “AdScam” Parker

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