A-B InBev Launches Massive Global Media Review After $100 Billion SABMiller Merger

All 6 holding companies invited to pitch

The beer giant looks to move away from a regionally-focused approach to media planning and buying.
A-B InBev

The world’s largest beer company is seeking new partners to lead its global media buying and planning business after merging with its main rival late last year.

All six major holding companies have been invited to participate in the A-B InBev pitch as the company looks to slim down its current eight-agency roster. A spokesperson told Adweek that it has not yet determined how many shops will handle media duties after the review.

A-B InBev closed on its offer to acquire SABMiller late last year in a deal whose total worth was estimated at more than $100 billion dollars. (The Miller and Coors brands were sold to Molson Coors in order to ensure approval of the merger.) Now, the company behind Budweiser, Beck’s, Corona and more is “taking the opportunity for a comprehensive review of A-B InBev’s current media planning and buying capabilities globally.”

According to an internal strategy memo, the company plans to move away from a model that focused on individual countries or regions to a more global approach with the ultimate goal of “reduc[ing] the complexity that comes with working with multiple partners.”

A decision should be made in the second half of this year, with the new agency roster in place by early 2018.

This marks a major shift for A-B InBev, which aims to apply best practices universally across the 50-plus countries involved in the pitch. Another key concern is achieving greater consistency in media buying rates and approaches, regardless of region.

The spokesperson declined to specify which agencies will be involved in the initial stages of the review but did confirm that a formal announcement will be made next month, that “a number of [current] agencies” will be invited and that a decision should be made in the second half of this year, with the new agency roster in place by early 2018.

If the review does not come to a satisfactory conclusion by that time, A-B InBev does not discount the possibility of placing the process on hold and relaunching it at a later date.

MediaLink will fill the consultancy role in the review, with Mediapath handling audit duties. WPP’s MediaCom has been media AOR for A-B InBev in the U.S. since beating out Spark, OMD and Vizeum in a late 2014 review. (The client had previously handled much of its media buying in-house.)

According to the latest numbers from Kantar Media, A-B InBev spent more than $700 million on measured media in the U.S. in 2016, and the acquisition did not factor into that total. While North America is the company’s largest single market, its global spending totals are considerably higher.