Beam Suntory Names Leo Burnett as AOR for Jim Beam

By Erik Oster 

Beam Suntory selected Leo Burnett as its new global agency of record for its Jim Beam whiskey brand, concluding a review launched in September.

Leo Burnett won out against DDB and McCann, picking up an assignment formerly handled by StoryWorks (aka Mekanism in the U.S., The Works in Australia and Jung von Matt in Germany). The review was purportedly a close one, with all three finalists holding out hope that they’d won the assignment.

The appointment is very welcome news for Leo Burnett as it seeks to rebound from a tough year. In late August, the agency lost its McDonald’s account when the fast food chain chose to consolidate with Omnicom, following a review launched back in April. Shortly before that news broke, Leo Burnett Chicago went through a round of layoffs, which Leo Burnett Worldwide CEO Rich Stoddart attributed to an “ongoing effort to match our clients’ needs to the talent mix and size of our agency” and not the then-ongoing review. It was the office’s third such round of downsizing of the year, following the departure of “approximately ten” employees in early March and an undisclosed number the following month. The agency also lost a portion of its Pfizer business earlier this year, and General Motors launched a creative review for its GMC account, for which the agency is defending, in September.

Adweek reports that certain sources with direct knowledge of the review initially favored DDB, whose CEO, Wendy Clark, formerly served as a marketing executive with Coca-Cola alongside Beam Suntory’s new VP/CMO Rebecca Messina. Others cited Publicis’ longstanding relationship with Dentsu Aegis as a rationale for Leo Burnett as the favorite. The network had counted Japan’s Suntory as a client for years before the latter purchased Jim Beam to become Beam Suntory in 2014.

Jim Beam spent around $26 million in measured media domestically during the first half of 2016, according to Kantar Media, nearly double what it spent the previous year over the same period.