Brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev currently works with more than 50 ad agencies, but it has quietly developed its own in-house agency in the US to work across all its 42 brands.

Called Draftline, the New York-based agency employed just three people in May 2018 but has since taken on 55 staff, with most of them hired from agencies and the rest from brands, production companies and TV networks.

According to Advertising Age, which first reported the news, the team offers a range of services, including TV production, packaging, out-of-home, radio, email marketing, data collection and programmatic media-buying.

And while working with external agencies for large brands like Bud Light and Michelob Ultra, the AB InBev agency also handles the entire creative and media needs of new brands, such as Patagonia.

Marcel Marcondes, AB InBev’s US chief marketing officer, told AdAge in an interview that moving more creative and programmatic buying in-house frees up time while also allowing its existing agency partners to focus more on other work.

Other advantages include the ability to scale more personalised and localised marketing, such as using data to track what kind of messaging resonates better with consumer groups.

He denied Draftline has been set up to compete with external agencies, explaining that it is required to pitch for business along with any other invited agencies.

“We’re not doing this to create competition, it’s to do more … We want performance to go beyond what we have been seeing in the past couple of years,” he said.

“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.”

Joao Chueiri, senior VP of marketing at AB InBev and the head of Draftline, added that the agency does not charge a fee, so what AB InBev saves can be reinvested in media “or anything else”. He also re-emphasised the point that its existence should enable existing agency partners to focus on other activities.

“A lot of agencies are thankful because they understand they have the ability now to focus on the things that can really make a difference,” he said.

Sourced from Advertising Age; additional content by WARC staff