Boston Beer Seeks Fresh Ideas

Never content with any particular creative approach or agency partnership for long, Boston Beer is looking beyond McCarthy Mambro Bertino for creative ideas for its flagship Samuel Adams brand and may be mulling a review or account shift, sources said.

The Boston-based client, which spends $15-20 million annually to advertise Sam Adams, has held meetings with at least one sizable shop in Boston; but at press time Friday the client had not committed to a review or placed MMB on notice, sources said.

One source, who requested anonymity, went so far as to suggest that the client is “not serious” about hiring another shop, but merely trolling for ideas and perhaps looking to put pressure on MMB to ratchet up its creative efforts.

Neither MMB executives nor officials at Boston Beer—including chairman and founder Jim Koch, who has voiced Sam Adams ads in the past, and vice president/brand development Robert Hall—returned calls.

The client has a reputation for quickly discarding creative ap-proaches and agencies. Following its 1995 split with Boston’s Gearon Hoffman, which helped establish Sam Adams on the national scene, the brand moved in rapid succession to Wieden + Kennedy, Carmichael Lynch, McCann-Erickson and McCarthy Co. The latter, a brand consulting operation led by Joe McCarthy, in March joined with former Square One creative executives Jamie Mambro and Fred Bertino to form MMB in Boston.

McCarthy’s TV work for Sam Adams, which debuted a year ago and is still running, features footage from clubs, beaches and barbecues in Rio de Janeiro, Stockholm, London and elsewhere and the tagline “The world’s most award-winning beers.” Some client executives—in particular Hall, who joined Boston Beer from Kellogg—have insisted on a new direction, which thus far MMB apparently has been unable to deliver.

Many of the region’s larger players have no direct conflicts in the category, but it is unclear, despite the relative lack of potential new business, if they would go after Sam Adams. Arnold and Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos pitched the account in 1998 when it moved to McCann following a contentious review.

Arnold and Hill, Holliday declined to say if they had spoken to the client. Mullen, Wenham, Mass., works for Labatt USA’s Sol Beer, which would preclude the shop from pursuing Sam Adams, an agency representative said.