(Updated at 1:30 pm PST)
I just became a follower of Anheuser-Busch's Michelob account on Twitter. A few hours after I became a follower, I received an email from A-B, asking me if I was of over 21 years old.
Is a virtual bouncer asking for an ID enough for this brewer to stay in check with industry guidelines? It's a question getting some attention.
According to Ad Age, A-B's use of Twitter and its requirement of followers to at least say they're old enough to drink underscores "how carefully alcohol marketers -- required by industry guidelines to limit ad messages to venues where at least 70% of the audience is of legal drinking age -- are treading into Twitter."
A-B was burned before when its Bud.tv shut down, partly because it was a beer company trying to be a media company, and partly because it was "undermined by a vigorous firewall that checked viewers' age claims against databases of state IDs, in some cases keeping out of-age consumers."
Tom Shipley, senior director-digital marketing at A-B, told Ad Age that the brewer is using Twitter "because our adult consumers increasingly want to have a conversation with us." He said asking would-be followers how old they are is consistent with the age checks the brewer uses on its branded websites.
Michelob has more than 800 followers. From the looks of the conversations, Michelob uses its Twitter account for pretty innocuous messages, like "Just ran into Brewmaster Adam, who's getting ready for the brew fest. He's presenting a brewing education segment on Sat" or "So... I've missed you all, I've missed #beer. What else did I miss?"
Does this type of messaging available to children represent a lack of dignity on the part of brewers? George Hacker, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which lobbies for more restrictions on alcohol marketing, believes so. "Twitter is for kids, and this is a way to put these brand names in their faces," Hacker told Ad Age.
First of all, Twitter isn't just for kids. About 70% are of drinking age.
And, these messages are nothing compared to what kids can listen and watch on YouTube. As a mother, it is a bit worrisome that children have access to so much online. But communications and dialogue about beer is the least of my worries.
(Image source: 3.bp.blogspot)