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Shake-up stirs SA beer advertising

AB InBev, SA’s fourth-largest advertiser, has awarded part of its ad account to King James. A key question since the brewer acquired SABMiller has been whether its marketing spend would go up or down


The first phase of what appears to be a major shake-up in SA beer advertising has been completed, with AB InBev awarding its global brands business to the Cape Town-headquartered King James agency.
Brands in this portfolio include Corona, Stella Artois and Beck’s. Others that might eventually form part of the account will be revealed later.
The account was won in a three-way pitch that included Joe Public and Promise.
Ever since AB InBev acquired SABMiller, the ad industry has been anxious to see what, if any, account changes would be made.
AB InBev is the fourth-largest advertiser in SA, spending about R800m/year.
Local brands like Carling Black Label and Castle Lager currently sit in the Ogilvy Group.
Andrea Quaye, marketing vice-president for AB InBev Africa, is circumspect on whether other brands in the stable are out to pitch.
She says: "As part of the normal order of business, we periodically evaluate our agency roster in light of what needs to be achieved by our business in the coming year, as well as to generate new and exciting ideas for the brands which often arise as a result of such reappraisals.
"It’s important to note, however, that this process is limited to a minority of agencies and the majority of agencies continue to be our partners."
Quaye says King James’s initial remit will be managing digital strategies for the global brand portfolio and assisting the company to adapt global campaigns for local nuance.
King James CEO James Barty says: "The maturation of digital channels has significantly [affected] alcohol advertising.
"The category has fully embraced integration, to the extent that campaign briefs are now completely medium-neutral. Activation has also become an increasingly important facet as consumers seek both the live brand experiences as well as the intimacy of digital channels."
One of the key questions being asked in the ad industry is whether there will be an increase or diminution in overall marketing spend now that new owners are in charge.
Notes Quaye: "There will be new brands introduced and these will require marketing investments in order to grow."
She confirms that Stella Artois will be produced locally in the coming year and there will also be an increase in Corona imports.
As King James now gets to grips with one of SA’s most prestigious accounts, it’s been forced to part company with longstanding client Diageo — 19 years on Bell’s whisky and 13 years on Johnnie Walker.
Alistair King, chief creative officer, says: "We will mostly miss working on the ideas that we creatively put in place like ‘Give that man a Bell’s’ — a line we will always be proud of."
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