Agencies decline to strike over 'despicable' AB InBev pitch practice

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Beer brewing behemoth criticized for practices with agencies

The Marketing Agencies Association has hit out at the pitch practice of AB InBev, as a planned strike by agencies against the beer giant fell through Tuesday.

The MAA, which in March highlighted what it labeled "despicable" conduct by AB InBev, had called on agencies to strike against the company to make a stand against the businesses treatment of suppliers.

However, for reasons that were "understandable given their vulnerability," agencies declined to launch the strike, due to start today. The ISBA also failed to publically condemn "exploitative client behavior," the MAA said.

The body had called on all associated agencies to "unite" to put pressure on the Corona, Budweiser and Stella owner after it was alerted to an e-auction pitch during which agencies were asked how many hours’ work they would effectively give free and whether they would consider going beyond AB InBev’s 120 days payment terms.

Agencies were also asked how much more of a rebate they would be prepared to give back over the minimum 5% rebate that AB InBev stipulates.

However, MAA managing director Scott Knox said in an email to members this week that it had garnered support from agencies in the US, where there was a real enthusiasm for calling "bad practice" to account. 

"The industry has no choice but to pull together if we are to have a chance of securing long-term financial health for agencies and their staff," Knox said.

The body had struck up conversation with two of the largest global advertising networks and was in dialogue with several MPs as to how to challenge what the MAA deems "exploitative" business practice, he said.

Chris Arnold, the founder of agency Creative Orchestra, called for the ad industry to "show some backbone and take on those companies whose moral compass is pointing in the wrong direction."

"What we need in the industry is a fair payment policy. There is no argument for extended payment periods, it's an unethical principle," he added.

AB InBev had not responded at the time of writing.

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