By Ilyse Liffreing

Anheuser-Busch InBev has been quietly brewing its own U.S. in-house agency for the past year. On Friday, the brewing company is set to officially announce its launch.

Dubbed Draftline, the agency has grown since May 2018 from a digital and social agency working only on Michelob Ultra, to working across all 42 U.S. AB InBev brands, offering a range of services including TV production, packaging, out-of-home, radio, email marketing and data collection and fulfilling all programmatic media buying (which accounts for 10 percent of AB InBev’s media spend).

Along with working alongside external agencies for large brands like Bud Light, Budweiser and Michelob Ultra, it also handles the entire creative and media needs of new brands like Patagonia.

In-house shops in recent years have become a rising threat to external agencies as more marketers give them a try. AB InBev U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Marcel Marcondes said by moving more creative and programmatic buying in house in the U.S., the brewer can free up time and focus for the agencies brands continue to work with. “We’re not doing this to create competition, it’s to do more,” he said.

AB InBev currently works with over 50 ad agencies, including Wieden & Kennedy for Bud Light, FCB for Michelob Ultra and David and VaynerMedia for Budweiser. Marcondes said AB InBev is treating Draftline like any other agency it works with, meaning it has to pitch for business along with any other agencies invited to do so.

He said the the decision to launch Draftline came down to a desire to scale more personalized and localized marketing, connect consumer data to the creative work and have more agility when bringing advertising to audiences.

“We want performance to go beyond what we have been seeing in the past couple of years,” Marcondes said, sitting in a conference room at Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Manhattan office at 125 W 24th Street on Monday. “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.”

Draftline lives within the same building, a few floors below executive offices, in a coworking space operated by WeWork competitor Alley. Groups of creatives huddle into rooms designated for individual large brands such as Bud Light and Budweiser or categories of beers within the AB InBev portfolio, such as its craft brews. Marcondes said there are plans to move operations up a few floors into the AB InBev-owned offices in the coming year.

The agency needs the space. During the past year, Draftline has grown from a team of three to 55 employees, with some being transferred from within AB InBev, the majority being hired from agencies, and the rest coming from brands, production companies and TV networks. About 35 employees work on the creative side, with 20 people on media buying and data operations. “We now feel like we have …read more

Via:: Ad Age B to B