Starcom, MindShare, Carat Pursue $300 Mil. Miller Media

NEW YORK WPP Group’s MindShare, Aegis Group’s Carat, and possibly one undisclosed shop are challenging incumbent Starcom for Miller Brewing’s estimated $300 million U.S. media buying and planning account, sources said.

The potential fourth contender handles business that could be viewed as a conflict and may withdraw or be disqualified by Miller, per sources.

The client confirmed that proposal requests have gone out to select agencies, but declined to identify them or say how many contenders would be included. Agency executives either could not be reached or declined comment. The client is expected to meet with shops early next week.

Roth Associates, a New York-based consultancy, is managing the review.

“As part of general practice we are conducting a review of our media agencies,” a Miller representative said. “We periodically review all of our agencies in line with our best practice approach.”

Internally, the review is being led by Bob Brennan, who is director of strategic projects and a former Starcom executive, and Dave Genel, the company’s media director.

Publicis Groupe’s Starcom, which has held the business for about nine years, could not be reached for comment.

Miller spent $300 million on ads in 2004 and $250 million through the first 10 months of last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Creative roster shops include WPP Group’s Young & Rubicam and Ogilvy & Mather, MDC Partners’ Crispin Porter + Bogusky, IPG’s The Martin Agency and independent Mother.

Miller Brewing was purchased by South African Breweries in 2002, creating SABMiller, the world’s No. 3 brewer. In the U.S., Miller is No. 2 behind Anheuser-Busch.

Miller brands, in addition to its eponymous labels, include Meister Brau, Milwaukee’s Best, Red Dog, Sharp’s and Olde English 800.

This story updates an item posted on Jan. 19 with the list of contenders.