USA: AB InBev to launch own advertising agency

AB InBev has launched its own in-house advertising agency in the United States. The company dubbed draftLine has grown within one year from a team of three working only on Michelob Ultra, to 55 people working across all 42 AB InBev brands in the U.S. Its official unveiling came this week and its intended to be developped into an international network with more than 12 locations.

The headoffice of DraftLine is located at AB InBev’s Manhattan office. About 35 employees work on the creative side and the rest on media buying and data operations. Services include TV production, radio, email marketing, influencer marketing, social listening, community management, digital video, GIFs, packaging, cans, sign-making, out-of-home, memes, display, data collection, audience segmentation, programmatic media buying, analytics and more.

AB InBev currently works with over 50 ad agencies. “If we treat draftLine as any other agency, then we lose,” says Joao Chueiri, AB InBev’s Senior Vice President Marketing who will head the operation. “We know the brand better than anyone. We have strategic conversations and sit at the table and bring more value than just creativity. That’s why we’re here. Otherwise we’re just another agency,” he told Ad Age.

But this does not mean that AB InBev is not treating draftLine like any other agency it works with. The in-house agency has to pitch for business along with other agencies invited to do so.

The move to create its own agency follows the industry-wide push towards data-driven marketing while avoiding to give valuable consumer data out of the house. “The more we grab consumer insights by data, the more we feel confident about what we need to say and which kind of products address the needs of consumers. This is the fuel for good creativity, that with agility, can take us to a better place,” says AB InBev U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Marcel Marcondes.

Another important point is also to save cost. Although there is no agency fee attached to draftLine the respective brand is credited with the related costs which gives a strong incentive to safe on cost. By moving business from agencies to in-house departments, Procter & Gamble has saved over the last four years nearly $1 billion in agency fees and ad production costs.

DraftLine will not be restricted to the United States. It actually took off in Colombia where it has already more than a hundred employees, and then spanned to Mexico. The business unit in East Asia opened an office in Seoul, Korea, last week and a Canadian office in Toronto is in the works. AB InBev intends to develop draftLine to become an international agency network with more than 12 locations around the world.

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