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Beer and ad agency's 16-year marriage stays

This clipping was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer in April of 2002.  I tried to look for the digital version of this in the Inquirer Archives but could no longer find it.  I am therefore re-posting it here on my blog ( www.ooh.ph )

Beer and ad agency's 16-year marriage stays

By Margie Quimpo-Espino

IT WAS a marriage that lasted 16 years and was momentarily threatened when one of the parties' eyes strayed.

But after looking at three other very good prospective partners, the party who nearly strayed decided its old spouse was still the best after all.

McCann Erickson Phils. Inc. won the P400-million San Miguel beer advertising account. The win will likely seal McCann's position as the No. 1 ad agency in the country in terms of billings (amount of ads placed in various media outlets) this year.

The bid also means income of at least P75 million in the ad agency's coffers.

The advertising industry thought it was the end of the 16-year marriage of McCann and San Miguel beer when San Miguel Corp. asked other agencies to pitch for the account—Jimenez and Partners, Saatchi & Saatchi. Lowe and Partners (Lintas) and FCB. But it was not.

"I don't think leaving McCann was the motivation for their opening the bid. The client wants to know what's happening out there," McCann chair Emily A. Abrera says in an interview.

She was also happy because "SMC's move gave us a chance to prove that we have the best people" in the industry.

McCann created some memorable ads for San Miguel like the Fernando Poe series, "Kahit Kailan Kaibigan," "Sabado Nights," "5-thirsty" and also created huge market share for Sprite with its "Magpakatotoo Ka" series.

SMC gave the four advertising agencies 27 days to draw up a new campaign for San Miguel beer.

A core group from each of the invited ad agencies focused all their efforts and talents for almost a month on drawing up the win-ning ad that would bring in the plum account.

Everybody thought they had a winner but in the end only one was chosen. Abrera says she knew the agency struck gold in their cam-paign because of the "new truth" they uncovered about the brand. "I felt we had a winner because I felt very strongly we had reached a new truth (about San Miguel)," she says.

What McCann did was pool about 45 people from a cross section of the ad agency—mostly people who had never worked for the beer account.

"We tried to do a fusion of all possible catalysts. We got together people who knew the relations of people to media. We looked at how consumers react to media," she says.

She adds that they got together people who were immersed in the pop culture and in the needs of the consumers.

"Our campaign was rooted on a truth about the brand," Abrera states.

She says the hardest part was going after that truth or "insight" about the brand as some agencies would call it.

"You cannot deviate from the brand. Once you understood the drinkers, the rest will be executional," she explains.

She of course declines to reveal what exactly is the "truth" that they stumbled as this would pre-empt the campaign. But she goes as far as saying some of the country's best talents were tapped for insights on beer and beer drinking. These include director Joey Reyes and actor/director Johnny Delgado.

The creative work, however, was all McCann's and Emily. a major creative talent, was involved in the process.

Abrera says she did not feel McCann had lost the account when SMC opened up the bid but she admits there were moments when she felt they would lose it.

"But overall I continued to have great faith in the review process of the client. I felt very strongly more
than at any other time that we would get a fair share," she states.

The challenge McCann now faces is to increase beer consump-tion. Beer drinkers have been on the decline. not just in the Philip-pines, but worldwide.

Abrera says this was because people today have more choices. San Miguel is looking for marketing and advertising ideas to increase drinker base. strengthen loyalty and improve drinking frequency.

Beer drinkers range from teeners to senior citizens and this totals about 46 million of the 80 million local population.

To Emily, the other major challenge in marketing the 111-year-old beer which is as Abrera puts it "probably the greatest brand the Philippines ever had, is to communicate the power and the strength of the brand."

It is an icon and one of the symbols of the Philippines and has not changed in its excellence." she stresses.

The intense process of drawing up a new campaign for the beer gave Abrera a different view of the brand.

"Working intensely for four weeks allowed me to look at the brand in a different way. It was a tremendous effort," she says.

In the end, it was that view and the view of the rest of her group that McCann Erickson Philippines retain its business and creative partnership with San Miguel that has made it possible to last much longer than some real marriages.



The author of this blog, Lloyd Tronco, is an Out-Of-Home Media Strategist.  He is a constant subject matter expert on matters pertaining to Out-Of-Home Media and Digital Signage.  He is also the industry journalist for OOH in the Philippines.  He was part of McCann-Erickson's team which pitched for San Miguel in 2002.

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