Anheuser Busch – goes where no brand has gone before…

The liquor category is all about entertainment for sure, but the fact that Anheuser Busch has taken matters into their own hands is startling. Take this as a true indication that one of the most powerful brands in the category feels that the marketing industry at large is falling way behind when it comes to innovation in both creative and media. We are clearly not moving fast enough for them. If we were, why would a client decide to venture out and start an entire entertainment division? More than a mere in-house promotional arm, Bud.TV seeks to establish itself as a true entertainment property in the voice of the brand. This is also very different from online video efforts recently delivered to us by P&G’s ‘Men with Cramps’, Georgia Pacific’s ‘Brawny Academy’, Mar’s ‘Snicker’s-Instand Def’ or Office Max’s ‘Elf Yourself’ and here’s why…

The network will operate ‘outside’ of normal marketing channels and reporting structures. This may be their strategic underpinning especially in the world of the unregulated internet. Unlike other promotional sites with video, this is a true channel that will deliver 24-hours of internet-based TV. A web-based network of seven or eight channels, the network will be boosted by relationships with major Hollywood figures including Kevin Spacey, Vince Vaughn, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Its budget is set to match those boldfaced names.

Bud.TV will be the largest piece of an online budget that will amass 10% of A-B’s entire $607 million annual media spend. The bulk of that spending will come at the expense of prime-time and late-night TV which is BIG news, and is just the start of a major change in the way we think about media in general. Remember that this is not as much a shift towards new media as it is about convergence and the fact that old media will change dramatically.

Obvious marketing and content crossover for Bud.TV may include a sports channel linked to the brewer’s sponsorships of auto racing, football and baseball, among other sports.

After the sports channel, the rest of the Bud.TV lineup includes the following channels:

TV Shows: Featuring short, sitcom-style shows. One concept in development, dubbed “Replaced by a Chimp,” features chimps replacing human workers. Viewers can vote as to whether the simians did the job better at the close of the episode.

Bud Tube: A concept developed by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, this channel will feature A-B commercials shot by consumers.

Happy Hour: Developed by DDB, Chicago, and scripted in part by former “Saturday Night Live” writer Matt Piedmont, this station’s content will be updated at 4:55 p.m. daily, and feature satirical newscasts, standup routines and “punking,”.

Reality: Concepts in development for this station include makeover and dating-themed programs.

Comedy: This station is expected to include footage from actor Vince Vaughn’s recent A-B-sponsored comedy tour, as well as jokes from consumers that involve A-B brands.

Hollywood: This station will leverage partnerships with Messrs. Damon and Affleck’s “Project Greenlight,” billed as the world’s largest online filmmaking contest, and Mr. Spacey’s TriggerStreet.com, which supports aspiring filmmakers. It will also hype upcoming movies featuring A-B product placements.

There will also be a fashion channel, and the possibility of a talk-show channel featuring sportscaster Joe Buck.

And our own, newly launched, online sports-casting show, SportsBabes would be a perfect fit…would it not?

Prior to launching BuddTV, A-B launched a micro site on YouTube dubbed CrownTown. The site has grown into YouTube’s No. 44 most-watched channel this month, with three videos approaching 1 million views. This is BIG BANG for very little buck when compared to traditional channels of thought. Crowntown’s characters are the five dotted spikes on Budweiser Select’s now-familiar crown logo, and each has been endowed with an urban-hipster persona. Each short pits the characters in amusing and occasionally R-rated social situations. The adventures are framed by a guitar-riff soundtrack courtesy of the Flaming Lips.

The good news for us as marketers is that the agencies are playing an important role in the programming at Bud.TV. The sad news is that this was not agency initiated and the jury is still out on who may be better positioned to deliver on this type of content…incumbent agencies, or Hollywood itself.

Mike Ovitz may not have been so crazy after all…

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