A-B Mulls Michelob

Anheuser-Busch has asked four roster shops to pitch new ideas for the brewer’s $40 million Michelob brand, sources said.

The St. Louis brewery is also looking for strategies behind a possible line extension of Michelob and has talked to at least two roster shops about that, sources said.

Michelob’s agency, Leapnet in Chi cago, which developed the current, “Beer, or Michelob?” campaign, is among those making presentations, ac cording to sources.

Also involved are Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, which shares Bud with DDB Chicago; Red Advertising, Boston, which has done new product work for the brewery; and Waylon Ad, St. Louis, which has previously handled several A-B assignments, including Tequiza.

DDB, lead agency for Bud Light, is not involved. The agency handled an assignment for Michelob Light this summer, but is generally left to concentrate on A-B’s key Bud brands.

At the time DDB produced its Michelob work, Bob Lachky, A-B’s vp, brand management, and director of global brand creative, said Leapnet would remain Michelob’s lead agency.

An A-B representative did not return a call seeking information on the Michelob pitches. Agency officials declined comment.

It’s not unusual for A-B to troll its agencies for creative concepts on a particular brand. A-B also en courages competition be tween shops that share a brand, such as DDB and Good by with Bud.

Still, Leapnet has undergone substantial changes since it won the Michelob business in 1997. Then a creative boutique, Leapnet has shifted much of its emphasis to interactive work. The agency does maintain a creative team led by David Hernandez on Michelob.

Former Leap Partnership president Tom Sharbaugh resigned from Leapnet’s board in May, but he remains a consultant to the agency and may be involved in the pitch. Sharbaugh once held a top marketing post at A-B, and is close to Lachky.

The brewer has increased its media expenditures on the brand by more than 50 percent since 1998, when A-B spent $25 million marketing Michelob, according to CMR.