SABMiller Pumps Up MEC’s Role

NEW YORK Brewing company SABMiller has appointed WPP Group’s Mediaedge:cia as its communications planning shop, the client has confirmed.

The agency will work with client brands around the world and the various lead shops assigned to them on an “as needed” basis, the client said. MEC has done project work with Miller on communications planning for about a year on brands in the U.S., South Africa, the U.K., Asia and Latin America. The American brands included Milwaukee’s Best and Miller Lite.

Miller’s estimated annual global spend is $450 million. The client spent about $260 million on ads in 2006 in the U.S., according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Communications planning has taken on greater importance among marketers recently. A number of agencies have started or expanded communications planning practices over the past year. In its just completed media agency review, consumer healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson made the unusual move of awarding communications planning-only AOR assignments for its brands in the U.S., with plans to expand such appointments overseas in the near term.

“We have been working with MEC for some time and they have been massively helpful in raising the standard of our communications planning,” said Charlie Hiscocks, brand communications director for SABMiller, in a statement. “As communications becomes increasingly complex, we need to challenge ourselves to make sure that we are investing every dollar, rand, euro or pound in the most productive way.”

MEC’s London office will manage the communications planning work for Miller. “We recognize the importance of world-class communications planning and it has been a key area of investment,” said Melanie Varney, CEO of MEC’s Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

Directly overseeing the work at MEC is Jim Taylor, the agency’s London-based regional director of retail.