Boston Beer Tips Glass to McCann

Hill, Holliday Defeated by Sister Shop in $10-12 Mil. Sam Adams Pitch
BOSTON–McCann-Erickson will restage Boston Beer Co.’s flagship Samuel Adams brew in a campaign slated to break in the fourth quarter.
The New York shop prevailed over sister agency Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos after a 10-week review that at least one participant described as “strange.” Eric Einhorn, director of strategic planning at McCann, said he did not find the pitch process unorthodox but acknowledged that “each and every pitch has its own unique character.”
McCann was assigned both creative and media buying and planning duties on the estimated $10-12 million account. Media chores had been handled since last March by Carat MBS (formerly Media Buying Services International) in New York.
Observers likened the pairing of McCann, a $1.5 billion agency that counts among its clients Johnson & Johnson, Motorola, Lucent Technologies and MasterCard, with the entrepreneurial craft brewer as unusual.
McCann apparently come up with a positioning for Sam Adams that had evaded the client’s former creative agencies. Said Boston Beer founder Jim Koch, “The ultimate decision was difficult because the agencies’ range of creativity and enthusiasm was so broad. In the end, we were wowed by McCann’s grasp of the Samuel Adams brand and by how the team moved from a strategic position to a creative solution that met the criteria we had established.”
Announcement of the decision was slowed because of last-minute contract questions. Agency fees and markups had been negotiated with McCann and Hill, Holliday prior to final presentations, said a client representative.
Boston-based consulting firm Pile and Co., which conducts reviews among other services for clients, was called in for those negotiations. The intent was “to remove price as a variable” in the final decision-making process, said Skip Pile.
During the review, participating agencies were invited to focus groups in which their ideas were being tested. One finalist, Arnold Communications in Boston, dropped out after one such session, saying Boston Beer had “issues” no amount of creativity could solve.
In fact, it was not only Arnold’s “Welcome to the Show” campaign platform that tested poorly. McCann’s “The Original American” positioning for Sam Adams and Hill, Holliday’s “Sam Adams: The American beer with character” were also shot down.
When all three proposals fell flat with the focus group, Boston Beer executives turned the tables, suggesting that they–members of the focus group–develop a campaign.