Friday, 27 April 2007

Not enough buddies for Bud.TV

Back in September last year we blogged about BudTV.

Since then some fascinating, in depth analysis has been done and the results are not good if you work for Bud:

From Nigel Hollis, the Chief Global Analyst for Millward Brown:

"Last week, Madison+Vine reported that “Anheuser-Busch’s fledgling Bud.TV drew 253,000 visitors during its inaugural month.” According to the article, that’s just one-tenth of the audience Anheuser-Busch ultimately hopes to draw. Tony Ponturo, vice president of global media for A-B, reportedly said that the web-based TV network, which Anheuser-Busch spent more than $30 million to develop, is waiting for the “wow factor” to kick in.

With Bud.TV, Anheuser-Busch aims to reach adults between the ages of 21 and 27. In an interview last year with Brad Berens, editor-in-chief at iMedia Connection, Ponturo suggested that the objective of the venture was to follow this group online. Because of the online habits of these young adults, Ponturo said, “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.”

Suggesting that Anheuser-Busch has done a good job of connecting with the desired demographic in traditional media, Ponturo said that BudTV “will be using the internet in a way that 21- to 27-year-old consumers will appreciate.”

In producing Bud.TV, Anheuser-Busch needed to clear two big hurdles.

First, they needed to move from being a sponsor of content to being a creator of content. Producing a 30-second TV commercial for the Super Bowl is a light year different from producing a 24/7 online network. As I highlighted in a recent Point of View on branded content, the production of branded content of any sort usually requires specialized help. That does not come cheap, as the $30 million price tag confirms.

The next hurdle is about mindset. Do Anheuser-Busch and its partners really understand what people are looking for online?

The initial traffic report by Madison+Vine suggests not. It also validates many of the initial reviews of the site. Pundits panned the site, not just for its registration process – forced upon A-B by legal requirements – but the content, too. “These sketches are awful. Awful!” reports Burt Helm in a review titled, “Bud.TV: So lame I’m angry.”

Jackson West at suggests that the content can only be described as “forcibly viral by committee.” West goes on to suggest that a lot of money has been spent on “cheap and cheesy” production that is so self-centered and inauthentic that it will turn off the intended target audience.

None of this sounded good to me, but then I wondered if maybe these guys were beer drinkers, or even in the right demographic, so I decided to get some qualitative feedback from people who would qualify as A-B’s target audience.

Unfortunately for Bud.TV, it seems that the pundits were not alone. While money can buy you content, it can’t, apparently, buy you respect.

Of the five males aged 21 to 27 who viewed the site for me, none found the content compelling enough to add it to their destination sites or recommend to friends. So what, according to them, is wrong with Bud.TV?

First, logistics. Apart from the frustrating registration process, viewers found the navigation counter-intuitive (I am glad it wasn’t just me!) and struggled to view the content. Given that ease of navigation is a key element of any successful online property, if this feedback is representative, then Anheuser-Busch needs to address the issue immediately.

Second, content. My impromptu focus group seemed to agree with the pundits. The moderator, Alex, reported that “the content itself did not elicit any response that would merit more visits. A few chuckles here and there, but when I probed to see whether the respondents would come back to watch a new episode, the answer was no. Most people said there was nothing truly original on the Web site. Everything seemed to be a recycled concept to appeal to the younger demographic.” In other words, just the reaction anticipated by Jackson West.

But apart from the reaction to the content, there is a fundamental mismatch between Bud.TV’s presentation style and the interactive experience many younger people are looking for online: it doesn’t offer a sense of discovery or a means of self-expression.

Alex contasts the TV-like presentation of Bud.TV with the freestyle presentation of YouTube. On YouTube, ratings, comments and suggested videos allow users to easily explore the labyrinth of content, finding new and exciting things along the way. It is an active, lean-forward environment where people can share their thoughts and ideas. “Bud.TV, on the other hand, has no central focus and no way to find something new and exciting,” says Alex.

Anheuser-Busch’s agencies have produced some great TV commercials over the years: think “Wassup!” and the frogs. Those executions were ideally suited to engage a lean-back audience watching TV. By contrast, the online environment is only very slowly morphing from a 100% lean-forward medium, where people actively search for content of interest, to one where people may be willing to sit back and watch what’s presented.

To that degree one could argue that Bud.TV may simply be ahead of its time. But on the other hand, bad content has never been in vogue. Contrary to Tony Ponturo’s statement last year, it seems to me that Bud.TV proves that Anheuser-Busch has a long way to go before it will really ” be using the internet in a way that 21- to 27-year-old consumers will appreciate.”

So, do you agree that Anheuser-Busch has missed the mark in this online venture? If so, are they the first to do so? Can you think of any other advertisers who have failed to understand want their target audience wants?"




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