Two-year-old goes flat

Bambi Francisco Roizen · February 19, 2009 · Short URL:

Beer companies should stick to what they know - making people drunk

 Anheuser-Busch this week shut down its two-year-old content site, after pouring $15 million trying to make it a destination for beer lovers, who like to laugh, watch sports and original content.

What was the problem? Plain and simple: Beer companies are not media companies. 

"If the networks can't continuously produce that [volume of content], how can a beer company?" said Keith Levy, vice president of marketing at Anheuser-Busch, in an Ad Age article.

Indeed, online video is still in its nascent stages. Traditional media companies - whose business is to make programming - are still trying to figure out what works online.

The ongoing debate is that short-form rocks online while long form is better suited for television. Moreover, online video has yet to break out and attract billions of advertising dollars (though that is likely to change in the next couple years).

Clearly, - with an emphasis on 'original' video content - was ahead of its time. 

Additionally, was burdened with popularity. It had too many fans, and high expectations. A-B launched the site after the 2007 Super Bowl, with expectations of 2 million monthly unique visitors to watch humor, sports and reality programming. It never got close.

But it was the money that it attracted and blew through that just seems like such a waste.

Levy tells Ad Age that the money wasn't wasted because in fact there were a lot of invaluable lessons learned. This response to the 'what happened to the money?' question is a great comeback for a child to his mother. I'm not sure it works in this case.

Nonetheless, lessons are always good for those watching on the sidelines. That is: As long as they're good.

Here's what Levy told Ad Age: "Consumers want branding, and if you tell them a story they don't see on television, they're receptive to that," he said.

OK. That's not exactly the $15 million lesson I was hoping for.


Here's more from Ad Age:

But the site's aggressive age verification, which checked entrants' names against a database of state-issued identification and sometimes kept even legal-age consumers out, proved a significant obstacle to traffic, which declined 40%, to 153,000, in its second month. Adding insult to injury, a group of state attorneys general ripped A-B for not doing enough to keep underage consumers off the site, boxing the company in further.

By May of that year, traffic was so light that the web-measurement service ComScore couldn't measure it. And the brewer gradually pulled back on producing original content in favor of planting ads on the site, one of which, "Swear Jar," became the site's biggest viral hit.

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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