Heineken Is Conducting a Market-by-Market Review of Its Global Media Business

Dentsu and Starcom are competing in the U.S.

The company consolidated with Publicis in 2012 and later added Dentsu to its roster. Getty Images
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Global brewing conglomerate Heineken, currently the world’s second-largest beer company, has been conducting a review of the media planning and buying business for its namesake brand around the world, according to multiple parties with direct knowledge of the matter.

These sources told Adweek that Heineken calls the process a “presentation,” but it more closely resembles a closed review between the company’s two global media partners: Publicis Groupe’s Starcom Worldwide and Dentsu’s Dentsu Aegis Network.

Sources said the Amsterdam-based brewer has been proceeding on a market-by-market basis, with Starcom recently picking up the business in Mexico and Singapore. The latest round of the review pits the two networks against each other to lead Heineken in the U.S.

“Heineken does not expect to consolidate media buying to a single agency. Our operating model allows every OpCo to choose the most relevant partner on a market by market basis,” said the company’s U.S. chief corporate affairs officer in a statement provided after this story went live. “And of course, we always have the option to choose the most appropriate media partner from the global roster.”

Spokespeople for Starcom and Dentsu declined to comment.

This stage of the review does not appear to include other brands in the Heineken roster like Dos Equis, Tecate, Newcastle or Amstel Light. It is also unclear whether the company has retained an outside consultancy to manage the process.

The news follows a February announcement that Heineken chief marketing officer and 14-year company veteran Nuno Teles would be leaving to lead Diageo’s North American beer division. Jonnie Cahill, formerly the senior director of global commerce in the company’s Amsterdam headquarters, replaced Teles.

Heineken’s last major global review was in 2012, when it consolidated its ad buying business with the network then known as Starcom Mediavest. (WPP’s Mindshare had previously handled the work in certain regions.)

In 2015, the brand also sent the creative portion of the business to Publicis without a review after splitting with Wieden+Kennedy and later named Neil Patrick Harris as its new brand ambassador.

The following year, another review managed by London’s AAR Partners saw Heineken add Dentsu to its agency roster in select markets, with Publicis continuing to manage the business in the U.S. and the U.K. The account was inherited by Spark Foundry and later transferred to Starcom Worldwide last year.

In April, Heineken reported an overall sales increase of 4.3 percent despite a weak European performance and a single-digit increase in its biggest market, Mexico. Investors remained unsatisfied, and the company’s stock price dropped when the announcement went live.

According to Kantar Media, Heineken spent $173 million on paid media in the U.S. in 2017, a slight increase from the previous year’s $164 million total. Global research company Comvergence estimates the brand’s annual marketing budget around the world at approximately $450 million.

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.