Bud.TV counts on honor system to keep kids from site
By Christopher Leonard
By Christopher Leonard
Anheuser-Busch is using cutting-edge technology to launch an online television channel, called Bud.TV, that will beam Budweiser-themed shows to personal computers and cell phones.
But when it comes to making sure that the 24-hour-a-day broadcasts of Bud.TV don't reach underage drinkers, the nation's biggest brewer is using a decidedly old-fashioned technique: The honor system.
Anheuser-Busch and outside analysts say Bud.TV will be more elaborate than existing brewer sites and is designed to take Internet alcohol advertising to a new level. The brewer will sign big-name stars such as actor Vince Vaughn to produce original shows. Bud.TV will also imitate hugely popular sites such as YouTube, allowing viewers to make and show their own ads for Budweiser and other products.
When the site goes live in February, it will be up to underage drinkers to refrain from viewing the standup comedy, sports events and reality shows that encourage loyalty to Anheuser-Busch brands. Parents, of course, can also play a role by monitoring the family's computer use.
Anheuser-Busch Cos. executives emphasize that the multimillion-dollar Internet ad campaign will target only young beer drinkers from the ages of 21 to 27.
Bud.TV will use the same age restriction method currently used by most alcohol industry Web sites, including those run by Anheuser-Busch and its biggest competitors, Miller Brewing Co. and Molson Coors Brewing. Viewers must enter their birth date before entering, and only those who say they are 21 or older can continue. But they don't verify the information.
Underage viewers could use false information to enter the site and Anheuser-Busch wouldn't know, acknowledges Tony Ponturo, Anheuser-Busch's vice president of global media and sports marketing.
"To some degree we have to trust the registration," Ponturo said.
Anheuser-Busch wants to discourage underage viewers from seeing Bud.TV, he said.
"You're going to see — we think at least for this site — by having this registration, it's putting our best foot forward to eliminate that," Ponturo said. He noted that Anheuser-Busch has a voluntary policy of not advertising in magazines or on TV shows where more than 30 percent of the target audience is too young to legally drink.