Wieden+Kennedy Pours Out Its Last Heineken

By Patrick Coffee 

Today Heineken and Wieden+Kennedy surprised some in the ad world by announcing the end of their shared five-year contract.

There’s no question that W+K has produced some very high-quality work for the client, Doogie Howser aside (take, for example, last week’s W+K Amsterdam ad giving users an insider’s tour of Paris). But the move makes sense: the client recently made some changes in its management structure in light of disappointing sales numbers only six months after rejecting a proposed takeover by SAB Miller.

As with other big-name clients like McDonald’s and Best Buy, Heineken is competing against market forces that it can neither tame nor co-opt. It may be the world’s third-largest brewer, but at this point it can only grow by acquiring or being acquired by its competitors.

The company’s Chief Commercial Officer Jan Derck van Karnebeek sounded a very similar note to that of other clients that have decided to move away from hiring a single creative agency, writing:

“We work with multiple agencies on Heineken®, to support the world-wide presence of the brand, and also to bring additional creative thinking. Globally we now enjoy a strong relationship with Publicis, while in many markets we are working with local agencies to deliver outstanding and effective local top-spin campaigns. We are excited about the future for both Heineken® and Desperados®. We thank the W+K team for their outstanding work and wish them well.”

From Wieden President/spokesman Dave Luhr:

“We are very proud of the creative body of work…But in this business change is more of the norm than the exception and it is time that we each go our own directions.”

Yet, as Adweek’s Andrew McMains put it,”…five years is a respectable run on a beer.”