Miller Hands Online Duties to Digitas After Dropping Agency.com

Miller Brewing has awarded its digital marketing business to Publicis-owned Digitas; Agency.com previously had the business.

The assignment follows a formal review that began last fall and included the digital arm of Arc Worldwide. Agency.com was invited to pitch for the business, but declined to do so. Marketing executives there said the firm was prevented from joining the review due to a conflict of interest, but declined to go into details for reasons of confidentiality.

Digitas will partner with the agencies associated with each of Miller’s brands, including its flagship beer Miller Light, which gets the lion’s share of television spending. Other Miller brands include Miller Genuine Draft (MGD), Red Dog, Leinenkugel’s, Hamm’s, Milwaukee’s Best and Foster’s.

Digitas will partner with Crispin, Porter + Bogusky on Miller Light, and Young & Rubicam on MGD. Last July Miller shuffled its Hispanic marketing roster agencies, assigning new work to Miami-based Creative On Demand for Miller Light, La Comunidad for MGD, and Chicago-based Frankel for other work.

The account will be run out of both the agency’s and the client’s Chicago offices.

A source familiar with the review said Miller wanted an agency capable of delivering on all aspects of digital marketing, including creativity, strategy and back-end functionality, something he said Agency.com could not do.

Digitas was recently acquired by Publicis, which also owns Starcom, Miller’s media agency of record. Miller spokesman Pete Marino characterized the resulting synergies as the “cherry on top” of the deal, but said it had little to do with the brewer’s decision making process.

Tony Weisman, president of Digitas Chicago, echoed that view. “Holding companies don’t automatically drive collaboration,” he said. “It’s partially that; it’s partially ‘Do the people want to be partners?'”

Miller has steadily increased its interactive budget in recent years while maintaining a steady overall ad spend. Marino said the Web’s larger allocations had been siphoned off more or less evenly from all other channels.

The loss of Miller was one of a series of blows to Agency.com, which experienced several client defections in recent months. The agency has also had a string of executive departures, including Eric Valk Peterson and Alan Burgis, as well as Scott Symonds, who quit last month to join AKQA as executive media director.

This story has been updated to reflect that Agency.com was invited to participate in the review, and declined to do so.

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