One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
Skyscraper National Park
Wes Morgan arrived in New York City with nothing. He just knew it was the Advertising Capital of the World and Kurt Vonnegut called it Skyscraper National Park. The kid from Edgewater Drive couldn’t help looking up at the buildings as he made his way to One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on Second Avenue for an interview with the HR director Bill Timm at SSC&B:Lintas. It was 1982 after Lever International Advertising Services (LINTAS) had just been folded into this Interpublic agency.
I rode the elevator to the 39th Floor and made myself at home. Bill Timm was gracious and invited me into his office. The meeting was one of several I managed to make happen. This one was by virtue of name dropping David Schropfer’s name in a letter along with a resume. Schropfer was director of account services at Mike Sloan Advertising in Miami but was once hired by Bill Timm somewhere in the Interpublic system. Anyway the Miami connection, the MBA and the rationale that the agency needed more male account people added up to my getting an offer. I would be paid $21,000 a year to be assistant account executive on the Van Munching & Company of New York account. Leo Van Munching was the exclusive importer of Heineken Beer in the U.S.
It was a big job for rookie and a wild ride. My boss was a guy named John Grogan who at 37 years old was a rising star at the agency. Tall and handsome and well groomed, Grogan seemed to be pretty full of himself. He was a marathon runner and lived in Bronxville, NY. He drove a big green Cadillac into Manhattan every day. I learned that he had been in the Navy and served at least some of his agency career on cigarette business. Grogan had enough juice at the agency to refuse the logical placement of one of the entry level trainees of which Bill Timm managed a small army of eight. Somehow, Bill Timm sold me as an alternative and placed me among Grogan’s Heroes. Grogan was VP and Management Supervisor with Heineken and Amstel Light (Van Munching inported beers), Lego Toys, and Homelite Jacobson lawn mowers under his wing. On Van Munching, Grogan relied on AE Russell Brown to provide a level of expertise from his background as a media buyer and me to do whatever Russell didn’t want to do or didn’t have time to do. He was effective enough in managing up to earn himself a promotion to Account Supervisor while I struggled as low man on the totem pole.
In retrospect, the Van Munching account was not very challenging or creative. Leo Van Munching was managing a steady growth in sales as the popularity of imported beers was for the time being anyway dominated by Heienken.
Indeed the relative success of Heineken and Amstel Light was overshadowed by the success of other Imports among them the Canadian brands like Molson and Moosehead and Mexican brands like Dos Equis and Corona.(Imports were less than 4% of the beer consumed in the U.S. at that time.) Meanwhile the domestic battle of beers was becoming a street fight between Anheuser Busch and Miller Brewing. The regional brands like Coors, Pabst, Rolling Rock and Stroh’s were going to eventually lose share to these giants.
But when you look at things in a fixed point in time with little or no sense of market share shifts over time -- It just seemed like the explosive growth of Heineken would go on. Leo Van Munching & Company of New York was spending $22 Million on those two brands. I was even, on two occasions asked to pick up checks from Van Munching & Company offices in the Radio City Music Hall building near 30 Rockefeller Plaza. On those two occasions I was essentially messenger boy carrying a checks from the client totaling over $1 Million dollars.
Leo van Munching, 88, Heineken Beer Trader
Published: April 4, 1990
Leo van Munching, the importer who brought Heineken beer to the United States, died of complications of Alzheimer's disease yesterday at Greenwich (Conn.) Hospital. He was 88 years old and lived in Greenwich.
Mr. van Munching, who was born in Hyderwyk, the Netherlands, began importing Heineken to the United States in 1933. He had been a ship's steward for the Holland/American cruise line and persuaded executives of Heineken to allow him to represent their beer in the United States after the repeal of Prohibition.
During World War II, when imports were curtailed, Mr. van Munching served as director of welfare for the Dutch Ministry of Shipping and assisted the Dutch Seamen's Home and the Dutch Officers Clubs in the United States.
He founded Van Munching & Company in 1946 and was its president until his retirement in 1980.
He is survived by a daughter, Ann Ryan of Greenwich; a son, Leo Jr., of Darien, Conn., 10 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.
Advertising Age reported this recap about Heineken in 2003
In December 1933, Leo van Munching Sr. brought his family and 50 cases of Heineken beer to the U.S., having talked the Holland-based brewery of the same name into making him its sole distributor in the market. The Nazi invasion of Holland, however, curtailed exports of Heineken, and the Dutch government did not allow Heineken to restart its export business to the U.S. until 1946.
In the 1970s, the company's advertising changed under the leadership of Leo van Munching Jr., who followed his father into the business Heineken's TV spots pictured only the bottle with the tagline "America's No. 1-selling imported beer." The simple campaign ran for 15 years with subtle variations in wording and background settings, and by 1979, Heineken accounted for 41% of all import beer sales. In 1972, Heineken became the No. 1 imported beer in the U.S.
Imported beers truly came into their own in the U.S. in the 1970s, when the legal drinking age was lowered to 18 in most states, and continued to grow in the '80s as imports were taken up by young urban professionals.
In the early 1980s, Heineken introduced Amstel Light, positioned as a premium imported light beer targeted to women, with the slogan, "95 calories never tasted so good." Amstel Light was a curious introduction for Heineken, as there was no call for light beer in the brewer's home market. The wisdom of the introduction soon became clear, however, as Amstel Light quickly rose to the No. 1 position among light beers in the U.S.
By 1986, Mexican Corona Extra, which appealed to a young audience seeking trendy new products, had surpassed Molson and Beck's to become the No. 2 imported beer, and Heineken realized it needed a fresh approach to capture the younger end of the market.
Warwick Advertising took over the account from Lintas in the late 1980s. In 1988, it introduced the tagline "When you're done kidding around, Heineken" to position the brew against a growing onslaught of faddish beer brands popular with younger drinkers.
In 1991, Mr. van Munching Jr. sold his company to Heineken, retaining operating control of the company until January 1994, when the Netherlands-based brewer took over marketing its brands in the U.S. Sales continued slow, however, in part due to federal taxes that were increased by 100% in 1991.