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Shops Get a Shot at Michelob

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CHICAGO -- Anheuser-Busch has asked four roster shops to pitch new ideas for the brewer's $40 million Michelob brand, sources said.

The St. Louis brewery is also looking for strategies behind a possible line extension of Michelob and has talked with at least two roster shops about that, sources said.

Michelob's lead agency, Leapnet in Chicago, which developed the current "Beer, or Michelob?" campaign, is among those making presentations, according to sources.

Also involved: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, which shares Budweiser with DDB Chicago; Red Advertising in Boston, which has done new-product work for the brewery; and Waylon Ad in St. Louis, which previously has handled several A-B assignments, including the launch of Tequiza.

DDB, lead agency for Bud Light, is not involved. The shop handled an assignment for Michelob Light that ran on the Food Network this summer [Adweek, July 30], but is generally left to concentrate on A-B's flagship Bud and Bud Light brands.

At the time DDB produced its Michelob work, Bob Lachky, A-B's vice president, brand management and director of global brand creative, said Leapnet would remain the lead agency for Michelob.

An A-B representative did not return a call seeking information on the Michelob pitches. Agency officials declined comment.

It's not unusual for A-B to shop among its agencies for creative concepts on a particular brand. A-B also encourages competition among roster shops that share a brand as is the case with DDB and Goodby on Bud.

Still, Leapnet has undergone substantial changes since it picked up the Michelob business in 1997. Then a creative boutique, The Leap Partnership, Leapnet has shifted much of its emphasis to interactive work. The agency does maintain a creative team led by David Hernandez on Michelob.

Former Leap Partnership president Tom Sharbaugh resigned from Leapnet's board in May but remains a consultant to the agency and was thought to be involved in the present pitch. Sharbaugh formerly held a top marketing post at A-B, leaving the brewer in 1996, and remains close with Lachky.

The brewer has increased media expenditures on the brand by more than 50 percent since 1998, when A-B spent about $25 million marketing Michelob, according to CMR. --with Ann M. Mack