Everyone seems to be taking the American approach and neither confirming or denying who has nabbed the Lion Red and Waikato Draught business, but after talking to psychics, futurists and a few other humans, it seems fairly safe to assume that Lion's unloved children have found new parents in the form of DDB and Josh&Jamie/Assignment.
Officially, none of the parties involved would be drawn on whether or not this speculation and rumourmongery was true. DDB's managing director Justin Mowday (who says he's fitting in quite nicely to his new role, by the way) couldn't officially comment but someone from within the DDB towers did mention the word 'exciting'.
Josh&Jamie are now bound and gagged by Assignment Group's 'do-not-speak-to-those-filthy-journos' clause. So, officially, they weren't saying anything. Unofficially, they said they both enjoy Vietnamese sandwiches.
Officially, Lion Red and Waikato Draught brand manager Mark Scown says there will be something official coming out soon. But the reason for not saying anything at the moment is that they "have a couple of things to work through" and a couple of people to talk to. It's also about showing a bit of respect for the incumbent, Publicis Mojo.
As per usual, he says there have been rumours aplenty, both around the pitch process, which was announced in May, and the winners of the pitch. DDB already has a few Lions in its stable (Corona, Stella and Budweiser) and Shine, which was also thought to be in on the pitch and concentrates on challenger brands, already has Macs. Mojo was also in on the pitch, but its workload has increased with the addition of a few new Speight's and Steinlager brands (hence the splitting up of the brands, apparently). So Special Group, unaccustomed as they are to losing and another agency thought to have thrown its pitch in, comes away with absolutely no Leonine love.
It's an interesting time for beer, and particularly mainstream beer. Socially, there's the recent alcohol law reforms, which look set to restrict things slightly in the coming years. And business-wise, despite all the talk of premiumisation, a few mainstream beers have performed quite well overseas (Carlton Draught in Australia is notable inclusion on that list). There's no denying the desire for premium, craft beer has increased in New Zealand, but there's still a lot of latent, often parochial love for brands like Lion Red, Waikato and others. And there are still a lot of people who drink them. And while it may rankle the beer purists, marketing often seems to be the major differentiator.
Lion's focus has been on Macs and Steinlager of late, so there hasn't been much above-the-line love being shown for Lion Red. No doubt everyone will officially be looking forward to seeing how the two unofficial new agencies tap into that. That will take some investment, of course, and some of those spoken to aren't entirely convinced Lion will stump up the cash to try and resurrect it.