Agencies slam AB InBev’s 'despicable pitch practices'

The Marketing Agencies Association (the MAA) has called for an agency strike on drinks giant AB InBev over its alleged “despicable pitch practices”.

The trade body has called the strike after it was alerted to an e-auction in a recent AB InBev pitch that made a number of exploitative demands, including asking agencies the lowest they would go on their rate card and how many hours’ work the agencies would effectively give free to AB InBev, out of the total scope of work.

The MAA, led by managing director Scott Knox, has urged all agencies currently working with AB InBev to go on strike and unite, in the hope that it will pressure the drinks giant to overhaul its pitch practices and treatment of agency suppliers.

The proposed strike would take place from next month (7 April), which gives the brewer two weeks to respond to the agency sector and drop these outrageous business terms.

“The MAA takes bad pitch practice and exploitative payment terms extremely seriously," said Knox. "AB InBev is behaving disgracefully, forcing agencies to provide them with discounts and financial sweetners across every possible work stream.

“The only way we can prevent this exploitative practice gaining ground is to rise up together as an industry and refuse to be bullied into devaluing our creative and strategic output. As a result the MAA calls on all those who currently work with AB InBev to ‘strike’ together and make our collective voice heard loud and clear”.

It is not the first time the brand has been outed for alleged mistreatment of its agency partners. The drinks giant, whose brands include Budweiser, Stella Artois and Beck's, has also reportedly asked how much more of a rebate agencies would be prepared to give back, over a minimum 5 per cent rebate that AB InBev stipulates. AB InBev is understood to have described this rebate as contributing to its CSR programme “Better World”.

Earlier this year, it was accused by the Government and the business industry for demanding what they deemed excessive long payment terms from agencies and small UK suppliers. Sources close to the brewer confirmed the allegations to The Drum but claimed they have no other alternative but to suffer the conditions for fear of losing the accounts.

Formed from the mergers between Anheuser Busch, Interbrew and Ambev, AB InBev made a global profit of £11.7bn last year.

Ab Inbev had not responded to a request for comment from The Drum at the time this article was published.

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