Labatt media account shift reverberates across industry

In the wake of the announcement last week by Labatt Breweries of Canada that it is moving its estimated $55-million media account from Harrison, Young, Pesonen & Newell (HYPN) to Initiative Media to strengthen its media bargaining power in the U.S.,...

In the wake of the announcement last week by Labatt Breweries of Canada that it is moving its estimated $55-million media account from Harrison, Young, Pesonen & Newell (HYPN) to Initiative Media to strengthen its media bargaining power in the U.S., word has come that the Initiative Media brand, itself, will soon disappear in Canada.

After Labatt Breweries North America announced last week that it was forging an international alignment with the McCann-

Erickson network of agencies, Initiative president Hugh Dow told Strategy that the unit he heads up will soon change its name to Universal McCann to better reflect its affiliation with the global network.

‘We will be aligning ourselves closer with the Universal brand name around the world, and once the dust has settled on the brewery situation, we’ll be moving forward on that,’ explains Dow. ‘Because this is a worldwide branding of the McCann media product, we’ll emphasize some of the common resources and common tools that will be made available around the world.’

Meanwhile, David Kincaid, vice-president of marketing with Toronto-based Labatt, says the brewer’s alignment with McCann-

Erickson will give it greater purchasing clout as it seeks to become a more formidable player in the U.S. market.

‘Don [Kitchen, president of Labatt Breweries North America] is really pushing to get that full integration on both sides of the border, so it’s a huge opportunity,’ he says. ‘Obviously, the buying power of an aligned McCann network in the U.S. and in Canada gives us the opportunity to add some further innovation and muscle to the media buy.’

Initiative, which had been handling media responsibilities for Molson Canada, promptly resigned the account last week, leaving Labatt’s main rival only 90 days to find a new media agency of record.

It was a vindication of sorts for both MacLaren, which was fired by Molson last year after serving as the brewer’s creative agency for nearly four decades, and for Tony Miller, the former president of MacLaren who left the agency in January to become executive vice-president, regional director of McCann

Erickson North America.

‘It puts us in a position where we can grow in the beer category again. The prospect of being able to do things beyond media is great for us,’ says Dom Caruso, president and COO of MacLaren. ‘With our previous client, we couldn’t do that,’ he adds.

A spokesperson for Molson, meanwhile, says the brewer was ‘completely surprised’ by the news, and hasn’t decided how it will select a new shop to service its media business, which is also believed to be worth over $55 million.

‘We’re looking at our options right now and [figuring out] what to do next,’ says Molson spokesperson Paul Thomson, who concedes a media review could be in the offing.

The decision clearly rocked HYPN, a shop which had worked with Labatt for more than 10 years, and which was actually owned by the brewer between 1990 and 1994.

‘We’re road kill on the global highway,’ says David Harrison, president and CEO of the agency. ‘Naturally, we’re extremely disappointed.’

Harrison would not comment on whether HYPN would pursue the Molson account, except to say, ‘You can make your own assessment about that. We certainly have openings for a brewery.’

Labatt’s alignment with the McCann network has also spurred some changes on the creative side. As first reported in Strategy (See ‘Labatt USA expected to tap Ammirati for Blue, Blue Light,’ Jan. 31, ’00), the Toronto office of Ammirati Puris Lintas has been named creative AOR on Labatt USA’s Blue, Blue Light, and John Labatt Classic brands. APL New York had previously handled these labels, but was forced to resign them after it merged last November with Lowe & Partners, which counts Heineken as one of its clients.

Toronto-based Ammirati, meanwhile, is expected to drop the ‘Lintas’ portion of its name and will be henceforth known as Ammirati Puris. The shop will function as an independent agency of New York-based Interpublic Group and will service the needs of both McCann and Lowe Lintas where necessary, says Bill Durnan, president of Ammirati Puris.

As part of the alignment, Labatt USA will hand McCann-Erickson creative assignments on a number of its brands, including Rolling Rock, Dos Equis and Lowenbrau.

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.