Internal Memo: McCann Fires Jose Cuervo and Pours Out All of Its Tequila

By Patrick Coffee 

Someone’s been forwarding internal memos as McCann swears off tequila for good. The agency “resigned” the Jose Cuervo account as of today according to an all-staff note from President Chris Macdonald.

McCann won the business in 2013 after Proximo took over distribution of the brand in North America, and while its subsequent work was perhaps most notable for featuring Jack Bauer himself, IPG did take Cuervo all the way from outer space to some approximation of the Rolling Stones’ 1972 tour jet.

That spot inspired Campaign’s editor in chief to write a piece describing the many ways in which it was WRONG!! (We might point out that anyone seeking historical accuracy in advertising will be sorely disappointed, but why bother?)

As for the reasons behind the move, it would seem that McCann believes other types of alcohol to carry more potential for marketing success; we hear that the decision had nothing at all to do with the agency/client relationship.

Cuervo remains the world’s most popular tequila, but its U.S. market share has dropped considerably in recent years from a high point of 45 percent. As Macdonald notes, Cuervo’s sales and marketing spend have risen slightly over the past two years.

A McCann spokesperson had no comment on the news, but the client’s CMO told AdAge today that the company would be looking for a new AOR and that it also recently declined to give McCann the Bushmills account. (The company is currently in the process of completing a review for that brand, which Proximo and the Mexican family that runs it also acquired from Diageo last year.)

Here’s the full memo. The key question: which spirits and beer “opportunities” is Macdonald referencing?

Dear all,

Today we notified our Jose Cuervo client that we have decided to end our relationship.

When we won Jose Cuervo business in 2013 we were given the opportunity to reintroduce the brand and to push the boundaries in terms of non-traditional creative.

We sent a margarita to space for National Margarita Day, painted an interactive mural for Write Your Cinco on Cinco de Mayo, delivered the spirits category’s first participatory graphic novel, created an augmented reality experience for Tradicional’s History in a Bottle and made Cuervo recognized as one of the top spirits brands with our shot-sized content strategy.

And, the business results were just as impressive. We helped Jose Cuervo stem its decline, and in the two and a half years that McCann has worked on the business, the brand is again on the rise – up almost 9% through October of 2015.  Cuervo Silver, the focus of the majority of our efforts, is up almost 25% YTD.

There are a variety of factors, including financial, that led to our decision and this has not been taken lightly. We want to thank Cuervo for the opportunities they have given us over the past two and a half years and wish them well in the future.

Please join me in congratulating the team on the amazing work they have done over the years, especially Mat Bisher and Lauren LaValle who have passionately led this business for us since the pitch.

The great news is that there are lots of opportunities across the spirits and beer categories …get ready!