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    Bud Light, Wieden + Kennedy part ways as beer marketer puts creative under review

    • Bud Light has put its creative account under review after years of working with Wieden + Kennedy. Adweek first reported the news.
    • Wieden + Kennedy, which has handled the business since 2015, declined to participate in the review, a spokesperson for the shop confirmed with Marketing Dive. The agency will remain with other brands under the AB InBev umbrella, such as Michelob Ultra.
    • Bud Light has been ramping up promotions for beverages outside of its core light beer like hard seltzer, part of a bigger play at diversification from parent AB InBev. Its reassessment of creative strategy marks another major account changeover for Wieden + Kennedy, which recently parted ways with KFC.

    Bud Light joins a wave of marketers enacting creative shakeups as their business mandates shift and they adjust to a world reshaped by the pandemic. The split with Wieden + Kennedy feels noteworthy amid AB InBev’s larger push beyond beer. AB InBev recently shuffled leadership, appointing Marcel Marcondes as global CMO in April. The executive previously helped spearhead the organization’s Beyond Beer unit.

    The Wieden + Kennedy news indicates that Bud Light is seeking a different perspective as its portfolio expands. The label has placed a bigger focus on a hard seltzer lineup that looks to win market share with young consumers who’ve gravitated to offerings like White Claw and canned cocktails. The marketer has also been busy trying to get its first zero-carb beer, Bud Light Next, off the ground as the better-for-you trend gains traction. In a potentially telling sign, media reports have compared the flavor profile of Bud Light Next to that of seltzer.

    “As the brand marks its 40th anniversary, Bud Light will be reviewing its creative business as it continues its mission to build authentic and engaging connections with its consumers,” an AB InBev spokesperson said in an emailed statement regarding the creative review. “We anticipate this process concluding later this fall.”

    Bud Light’s recent output with Wieden + Kennedy includes a Super Bowl campaign promoting new hard soda-flavored seltzers from Bud Light with Guy Fieri. Wieden + Kennedy also developed the Super Bowl spot heralding the introduction of Bud Light Next, which referenced the metaverse and had a nonfungible token component that was handled with VaynerNFT. The beverage is targeted at the 21-27 crowd, executives previously told Ad Age.

    Looking further back, Wieden + Kennedy came up with signature work for Bud Light that sparked conversation in the larger culture. An infectious “Dilly Dilly” campaign that debuted in late 2017 spurred many people to repeat the nonsensical phrase, turning it into a viral meme. The effort eventually evolved to include a “Game of Thrones” tie-in at the height of the HBO fantasy series’ popularity.

    But the larger beer market has continued to struggle with growth while alternatives have won stronger consumer favor. The category declined in volume by about 3% in the U.S. in 2020, according to stats from the Brewer’s Association.

    Wieden + Kennedy’s partnership with KFC similarly produced marketing that frequently generated consumer chatter and drew industry accolades. However, the fried-chicken chain reportedly felt increased pressure to stay competitive in the chicken sandwich wars and attract younger diners in greater numbers, spurring a switch to MullenLowe as its strategic and creative agency of record in February.

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