A-B Turns Off Retainer Tap At 4 Agencies

Anheuser-Busch has pulled brand retainer fees from four agencies including The Glennon Co. in St. Louis, whose Michelob business was shifted to The Leap Partnership here, sources said.
Also losing retainers were Schupp Co., St. Louis, for Bud Light, and Washington/Daniel Advertising in Chicago, for King Cobra and other malt liquor brands, these sources said. The fourth agency could not be determined.
Sources said that DDB Needham in Chicago, the lead agency for Budweiser and Bud Light, may also be in line for a substantial reduction in the amount of its retainer fee from A-B as the brewery looks for ways to cut costs.
Schupp and the other agencies losing their retainer status may continue to work with A-B on a project basis, according to sources. Schupp recently created a TV spot promoting an embossed Budweiser can that is testing in several markets.
A-B’s flagship brands have gone without flashy new campaigns of late, which several agency sources blame on a decision bottleneck at the brewery. One change being considered by the brewery is the formation of its own advertising division, with a director who would oversee ads separately from brand managers, sources said.
Bob Lachky, vice president of brand management at A-B, could not be reached for comment by press time.
By securing the Michelob business, Leap satisfies its well-known desire to return to beer advertising after resigning its Miller business in 1995. Agency president Tom Sharbaugh, a former A-B executive, had maintained contact with the brewery and Lachky, who sources said directed the Michelob shift.
A-B spent $17.1 million on Michelob and Michelob Light advertising in 1996. However, the brand’s sales have been declining. Domestic supermarket sales for 12 months ending Sept. 7 were down by 12.6 percent, to $60.7 million, according to Information Resources.