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DDB/Chicago losing hold on Budweiser and Bud Light?: sources

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Is DDB/Chicago about to suffer its biggest blow yet? Sources close to developments say the Chicago agency may be about to say goodbye to two of its most important, high-profile and lucrative brands: Bud Light and Budweiser.

Sources say plans may be in the works to move the Bud Light business to DDB's San Francisco office and the Budweiser account to DDB's New York outpost, which would leave the Chicago office with next to no Anheuser-Busch business. Those east and west coast shops could have -- or have access to -- the creative firepower to give the accounts the jolt the Chicago shop hasn't been able to of late. A DDB spokeswoman could not be immediately reached for comment.

Plus, DDB reportedly has just parted ways with Steve Jackson, a top-level global account person on the Anheuser-Busch business. Jackson had worked on the A-B business at DDB for more than 20 years. Jackson's departure is viewed as another sign that all is not well with DDB's relationship with Anheuser-Busch.

Word of these developments comes just days before Super Bowl Sunday -- which traditionally has been one of DDB/Chicago's biggest days. For years, the agency typically provided multiple Bud Light and Budweiser Super Bowl spots. But for the first time in memory, DDB/Chicago was shut out of the Bud Light Super Bowl line-up altogether because its work did not score high enough in focus group testing.

And there were even problems with the Budweiser work. A DDB/Chicago Clydesdale spot had to be re-edited, and the public had to vote to put the commercial in the Super Bowl, before Anheuser-Busch would add it to the line-up for the game.

Moving the Bud Light account to San Francisco could be part of DDB's and parent Omnicom Group's last-ditch effort to hold on to its lucrative Anheuser-Busch business. That business is no longer as lucrative as it once was, but it still provides significant income for the shop. A-B business that once brought in close to $20 million annually for DDB/Chicago is now worth about $6 million to the agency, sources say.

By all accounts, DDB/Chicago's hold on the A-B business grew considerably more tenuous after the brewery's chief creative officer Bob Lachky exited a year ago. The former DDB executive was in charge of deciding what creative from which agencies the brewery would use, and he always seemed to take care of DDB.

However things play out with Anheuser-Busch, DDB/Chicago still has other major issues to tackle, chief among them a glaring absence of new business even as big chunks continue to exit the shop. And nearly two years after chief creative officer Paul Tilley jumped to his death, DDB/Chicago leader Rick Carpenter has yet to find a new chief creative officer. With each passing day the question looms ever larger: Is it even possible to get one now with the agency in its current state?

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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This page contains a single entry by Lewis Lazare published on February 5, 2010 1:33 PM.

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