MillerCoors Sends Its $450 Million U.S. Media Business to Publicis Groupe After a Review

Beer giant is now America's largest brewer

MillerCoors spent $456 million on paid media in the U.S. in 2015, according to Kantar Media.
Facebook: Coors Light

Beer giant Molson Coors has completed a global review of its media agencies, choosing a Publicis Groupe umbrella organization to handle the bulk of its marketing budget as U.S. agency of record. The news comes after Molson finalized its $100 billion takeover of MillerCoors, which is now the larger company’s U.S. division and the country’s largest single brewer.

Kantar Media reports that MillerCoors spent $456 million on paid media in the U.S. in 2015 and $340 million during the first nine months of 2016. The company spends far more on marketing in the United States than in any other country.

According to a memo sent out to distributor-owner principals today by MillerCoors CMO David Kroll, the company picked Connect powered by Publicis Media to handle its business in the U.S. and Connect powered by Zenith in the U.K. Both units are part of the holding company’s “Power of One” approach, which seeks to save money by combining assets on a single piece of business. The Canadian portion of the account will remain with incumbent MEC, a WPP network.

The review began in fall of 2016, and it pitted the Publicis conglomerate against IPG’s Initiative, which has handled the MillerCoors business in the U.S. since collaborating with FCB and Kinetic to win what was a $400 million account in late 2008.

“Publicis Media comes to this new assignment as a proven partner to our colleagues in Europe,” Kroll writes in referencing the fact that Zenith has handled the company’s media buys in the U.K. since 2009. “They set themselves apart during the pitch with their impressive talent and global commitment to our business.”

The news marks a major loss for IPG, which coincidentally announced a new U.S. leadership structure for defending agency Initiative today. It is also a comeback win for Publicis, whose Starcom network was incumbent on the business prior to the 2008 review. The U.S. Connect team will be based out of Chicago and include members of Starcom along with other Publicis media units. (Starcom was also media agency of record for AB-InBev before losing the account to Mediacom in 2014.)

“I want to personally thank everyone at Initiative for their hard work, partnership and commitment to our business,” Kroll writes. “Ending such a relationship is never easy, but I’m confident this is the best decision for our business and look forward to getting to work with Publicis Media.”

MillerCoors was initially a joint venture between Canada’s Molson Coors and SABMiller, which agreed to sell its MillerCoors holdings (including all Miller and Coors brands in the U.S.) to Molson Coors as a condition of its 2016 acquisition by Anheuser-Busch InBev. That deal created the world’s largest beer company.

The U.S. division of the Molson Coors conglomerate currently works with a series of creative agencies in the U.S., with 180LA handling Miller Lite, Leo Burnett Arc on retail and Venables Bell & Partners leading creative on the Blue Moon and Leinenkugel’s brands.