Anheuser-Busch Speaks! Execs Talk Bud.TV

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Last week, Anheuser-Busch announced its foray into content creation with the upcoming launch of Bud.TV. I spoke with Tony Ponturo, vice president, global media and sports marketing, and Jim Schumacker, vice president, digital marketing and brand entertainment, about the endeavor.

Brad Berens: We are here to talk about Bud.TV. It is an exciting thing for a huge brand and marketer like Anheuser-Busch to get into actual content creation, rather than the sponsoring of content. So, why don't the two of you give us the quick overview of what Bud.TV is all about?

Tony Ponturo: Okay. First of all, what we have announced is that on February 5, 2007 we will launch an online entertainment network called Bud.TV. We wanted to go into this sort of new world because of what we are seeing, and what our research suggests, that adults 21 to 27 are using the internet minimally six hours a week, and obviously that's growing. So, we needed to continue to move more of our marketing, and specifically media resources, as we try to reach the consumer, into the digital space.

We have been looking at the whole internet world in a three-pronged sort of way. First of all, in 2006, we have been advertising in close to 40 different third-party websites, obviously bringing our brand messaging into anything from Yahoo! to AOL to ESPN.com, et cetera. We also have developed 20 brand websites -- from Budweiser.com to BudLight.com, et cetera -- which are there to really provide brand messaging, information about the brand, and be a communication device to the consumers about the individual brands. 

And then, we thought it was important to create this Bud.TV, which is really not going to be overt with our advertising. In fact, it is likely you will never see a 30-second promotional, other than maybe showcasing our Super Bowl spots. It will be using the internet in a way that 21- to 27-year-old consumers will appreciate. There will be many consumer user components; our brands will be more integrated into the programming and the site, almost in the form of product placement versus the traditional 30-second commercial.

Jim will take you through the site. There are going to be seven, maybe eight, channels as we get started with different themes. Obviously, it is 24/7. It will be refreshed, probably every 10 days to two weeks. Although, there will be a component of a unique "4:55 Happy Hour," that will be there everyday, which we think could be fun to have people come on the site and get something either funny, or different, or interesting that they can take on to their after-hours sort of gathering. 

It is our way to extend the expertise that we have had in the commercial messaging where we have done a pretty good job based on our beer sales of connecting to a 21- to 24-year-old consumer, and connecting and adding imagery and entertainment that they have found interesting. 

We have created icons-- sometimes by accident, sometimes by design: Ted Ferguson, more by design…going back in the history of Leon, Yes I am, Wassup, and I Love You Man were maybe a little bit by design. But, the explosion of them cutting across the American culture, I think, were bigger than we anticipated.

So, we found that we understand that world, and now can we bring that to the entertainment side. And clearly, the website gives us a forum to present content in an affordable way; and, ultimately create an image of using a space that, this millennial generation coming through is obviously very intrigued with. 

And then, just to recap my overview, ultimately, as we are learning more and more about this technology world -- that is really the television, and online, and the cell phone all collapsing into one -- we are headed towards interpersonal television, and are not too far away from our selection on the big screen, whether it is Bud.TV coming out of the web, or NBC… all basically being received on the same screen in your home.

I will let Jim talk about the site and its content, and why we think it will be intriguing to that target audience.

Jim Schumacker: Right now we have seven channels. The first is called: TV Shows, and we have two shows on this channel that are in production, right now. One is called "Replaced by a Chimp," where you grab a profession, such as a waiter, or a bartender or a trial attorney and replace those people with a chimp, and film the reaction of the consumers who happen to be in the same environment as the chimp. And then, at the end of the show, the consumer will vote on whether the chimp should stay and continue on the job, or that person who was the professional.

There's another show called "Truly Famous." We all know that people love celebrities and the paparazzi. And so, we are hiring a female and a male that will be celebrity-types, at least in look-- they will not actually be celebrities. And, we are hiring paparazzi to follow them around town and get reactions of consumers. So, if they go into a restaurant, as a celebrity, they would like to have their dinner comped; and, the engagement of conversation in that regard should be entertaining, and we are filming that and the consumer's response to that situation.

We have a channel called: BudTube, which was brought to us by one of our agencies in San Francisco, Goodby and Silverstein. The idea is that consumers will produce their own Anheuser-Busch ads. So, he gave the assignment to his creatives to see what they would come up with, and it was to replicate Ted Ferguson ads. Our first initiation on BudTube will have consumers produce their own Ted Ferguson ads. (He is one of our characters on BudLite who has been on the air for about a year.)

And then, Tony had mentioned the "4:55 Show," which we are calling "Happy Hour" and will be refreshed every day.

We have a Reality Channel with two shows in production. 

We have a Comedy Channel, whereby, you know, our first initiation is going to be working with Vince Vaughn. He had a Wild West Comedy tour last year where he did 30 cities in 30 nights. He actually rode from city to city and had two buses with the comedians. He filmed a documentary where we have product placements with Bud and Bud Light. He is premiering this documentary at the Toronto Film Festival this Friday; and, we are sponsoring his party. So, we will have film assets from the comedy tour, as well as the behind the scenes, and footage from the documentary. 

One of the comedians who is involved in the tour, the Wild West Comedy tour, is named Sebastian -- he's a good guy, does a great job from the stand-up standpoint -- and, he is an up-and-comer comedian. He is developing a show that will be in Detroit, in November. And, Bud.TV will go there and film the show with three cameras, and then either develop a two-hour special that can be seen on Bud.TV, or we will break the segments up as we see fit.

We have a Sports Channel that will have unique programming from more traditional sports, but we will also be dealing with more extreme sports. One example I can give you is, August 25, the Major Lacrosse League had the semi-finals, and on BudLight.com ran a webcast of the semi-final game. So, it will be unique programming. Hopefully, there will be some snowboarding, surfing, something that will have visual impact while coming onto Bud.TV.

We have a Hollywood Channel. And, we are involved with Kevin Spacey and TriggerStreet.com; and, Kevin will give us two to three short films. We're also partnering with LivePlanet with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and they are producing a show called, "Tell the Story," where a director will shoot the beginning and end of a short film, and then consumers will fill in the middle by filming with their cell phones.

Next: Distribution and user-generated content

 

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