Heineken Picks Publicis Worldwide as Its New ‘Lead Global Ad Partner’

By Patrick Coffee 

Heineken, the Dutch swill-maker that Adweek once rhetorically called the “worst client ever,” has chosen Publicis Worldwide as its “lead global advertising partner.” There was no review.

The press release positions the move as an expansion of the two parties’ existing relationship. From Chief Commercial Officer Jan Derck van Karnebeek:

“We are delighted to be extending our relationship with Publicis. Over the last two years, the team has produced exceptional results for Heineken┬«, especially the responsible consumption and Dream Island campaign. The team has consistently demonstrated a strong understanding of the strategic direction of the brand and we have been enormously impressed by their strong creative ideas and innovative approach.

We enjoy a strong cultural fit with the Publicis team and are confident that this partnership will further build on the success we have enjoyed with recent Heineken┬« campaigns.”

Translation: it was cheaper and more convenient for us to go with Publicis as opposed to Wieden+Kennedy, which the client officially dropped earlier this month as its five-year contract expired. The work referenced by van Karnebeek in his quote is “Dream Island” by Publicis Italy and the annual sustainability reports that have earned the company headlines in Fast Company and other such outlets. The ads most visible to North American viewers, however, have been the work of W+K. Heineken began moving its accounts over to Publicis before making this shift: in May, the agency beat out BBDO, TBWA and McCann to win Heineken’s Malaysian business.

This new announcement doesn’t mean that the client will stop working with other shops, though: the release also tells us that Heineken will “continue with its existing approach of using top in-market creative agencies to develop local platforms.”

From Arthur Sadoun, Maurice Levy’s next-in-line (emphasis ours):

“Heineken is one of the most iconic brands in the world with incredibly brave and creative leadership. Expanding our relationship with Heineken to a global level is an honour and testament to the strong projects and work we have been creating together. We’re looking forward to driving the brand and its business forward as a team.”

Is it? The client’s decision to “break up” with W+K was not particularly surprising given that its current status in its own industry is comparable to that of McDonald’s: both companies have experienced recent declines in sales numbers and public perception as more consumers around the world realize that their tastes are evolving and competitors step up to offer them more of what they want. In this case, that would be craft beer.

Heineken also rejected a proposed takeover by SAB Miller late last year; more top brew brands (AB InBev, etc.) have sought to acquire, consolidate and develop their own alternate offerings in an effort to defend against the rising hop-heavy tide.

So no more Doogie Howser.