Sleeman gives nod to Zig

Sleeman Brewing & Malting has asked Toronto agency Zig to belly up to the bar....

Sleeman Brewing & Malting has asked Toronto agency Zig to belly up to the bar.

The Guelph, Ont.-based brewery named the winner of its estimated $2.6-million advertising account on Sept. 29, after a search of more than four months.

The account went up for review in May, when Sleeman parted ways with its agency of three years, Toronto-based Publicis-SMW, over a perceived client conflict. (The Montreal division of Publicis does work for Molson Breweries on the Black Label and Hi Dry brands.)

Zig beat out five other shortlisted agencies to win the account: Enterprise Creative Selling, Gee Jeffery & Partners, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy & Mather, and Riddochdickinson, all based in Toronto. Media planning and buying remains with Optimedia Canada.

‘There’s a philosophical fit in our organizations,’ says Paul Brennan, marketing manager for Sleeman, about his agency of choice. ‘We think the same way: We both view [the challenge] as more than an advertising solution – it’s a communication solution.’

Andy Macaulay, one of the founding partners of Zig, agrees.

‘My belief going into this was that…we had a pretty good shot because we are to our industry, I hope, what [Sleeman is] to theirs. We’re both, by our competitors’ standards, relatively small, we believe passionately in our product, and we try to conduct business honestly and with integrity. That’s what I’ve always admired about the Sleeman brand, and that’s what we aspire to as a company.’

It doesn’t hurt that Sleeman happens to be Macaulay’s personal brew of choice, or that he has worked on the brand in the past. (The account was handled by his former agency, Roche Macaulay & Partners, back in the early 1990s.)

Rather than call for speculative creative, the brewer sent each of the shortlisted agencies a list of five questions, and invited them to give their answers during a 90-minute pitch session. From the responses, Sleeman hoped to glean how well each agency understood the company and its brands, and gauge the potential for compatibility.

Among other things, the agencies were asked what they would do if company president John Sleeman were to cease appearing in Sleeman advertising. This led to speculation that the brewer plans to drop its well-known proprietor as corporate spokesperson – a significant creative shift.

Not so, says Brennan. ‘He isn’t gone. We’re going to review the full range of creative ideas, but John is a pretty important part of our brand. Anyone who knows anything about marketing will recognize how important he is to us.’

The agency decision came just a day after Sleeman’s acquisition of Dartmouth, N.S.-based Maritime Brewing Company, a move that gives the company its first foothold in the East Coast marketplace. Maritime brews a portfolio of brands that includes Atlantic Storm, Black Pearl, Kings, Halifax 1749, and Frosted Frog.