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Why beer brands pour on mobile video for narrative storytelling

Big beer brands including Anheuser-Busch, Heineken and MillerCoors are setting the bar in terms of verticals leveraging mobile video with unique campaigns that go beyond cramming television creative onto smartphones and tablets.

Beer brands are known for telling big story narratives that lend themselves well to television, but have been traditionally challenged in creating mobile-first and digital formats. However, the increase in social media, native advertising and connected devices is beginning to push the envelope for brands.

?I think actually there is a big challenge for beer brands,? said Scott Lindenbaum, vice president and digital planning director at Deutsch NY. ?Visually speaking in our culture, they?re quite ubiquitous and incredible storytellers. We see their commercials on TV, we see their out-of-home, we see their digital banners, and they?ve been putting all their TV ads on YouTube.

?We see these ads from a different channel ported into the Internet just for sake of being there,? he said. ?As a result, I think that they have trouble figuring out when they go mobile-specific and digital-first with video [with] getting out of the other mindset and that you need to break in and reach that consumer in a new way.

?They haven?t had fire under them to think about those [digital] expectations have to change, but I think all the sudden we?re starting to see brands think a little bit differently.?

Tapping video?s potential
Beer brands thrive on getting consumers to share brand messages through friend recommendations, and with more video viewing shifting towards smartphones and tablets where consumers are accessing social media, new storytelling tactics are starting to emerge.

For example, Anheuser-Busch?s Bud Light is running Facebook sponsored posts with a two-minute video embedded as part of its #UpForWhatever campaign.

The video is a follow-up to Bud Light?s Super Bowl ad this year with Arnold Schwarzenegger, which ended in asking consumers if they were ?up for whatever.? The mobile video sponsored ads follow the consumers who answered yes to the question, and they are asked to complete unusual tasks, such as playing basketball against former sports star Rick Fox.

What is unique about Bud Light?s campaign is that the beer brand chose to run the entire clip on mobile, reflective of a bigger trend with native advertising that is spurring the growth of longer-form video (see story). 

Despite the longer length of the video, Bud Light applied the same principles of capturing a consumer?s attention within the first 15 seconds to hook viewers in watching the entire clip, according to Lucas Herscovici, vice president of digital marketing at Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis.

One of the key learnings from the campaign thus far is that picking the right still frame has a significant impact on how many consumers click-through or share the ads.

?We know digital ? and Facebook, specifically ? helps us sell beer,? Mr. Herscovici said.

?We have a large built-in audience on our Facebook page who we want to engage early and often,? he said. ?Facebook?s native video player provides high quality video experience that can reach the right consumers due to their unique segmentation capabilities.?

At the same time that Anheuser-Busch is running full-length video on Facebook, the beer giant is taking a much different approach on Pandora.

Fifteen-second video ads promote Bud Light Lime Ritas with creative that focuses solely on the products as a bartender pours drinks with a close-up view of logos on the labels. 

Compared to the lengthier ad for Bud Light, Anheuser-Busch intentionally went the shorter route for Lime Rita to pack a bigger punch.

?This campaign is unique because the product is so visually appealing, so it was important that the energy was reflected on mobile,? Mr. Herscovici said.

Unique formats
Mobile social application Instagram has also become a go-to platform for beer brands such as Heineken, Carlsberg and MillerCoors to push out short video clips since consumers are sharing and scrolling through friends? content.

Carlsberg is running a campaign in Europe to extend happy hour with Instagram. The beer brand encourages consumers to create content and post it with a hashtag from the bar.

Carlsberg equipped the venues with technology that syncs up the Instagram content to in-bar TVs that display the Instagram content on screen. Each time a piece of content pops up on the screen, time is added to happy hour.

The idea is that the campaign leverages something that consumers are already doing ? taking photos and videos with their friends inside the bar ? to create and reward original content.

Several other beer brands in the United States are also using Instagram to connect with younger users through content.

Miller Fortune recently became the first MillerCoors brand to have an Instagram presence as part of a mobile-heavy launch promotion (see story).

Heineken has also been promoting video content on its Instagram account over the past few weeks to promote a campaign called ?The Legendary Posters.? The short video clips promote a collection of 40 posters that support the nonprofit Reporters without Borders, and a call-to-action at the end of the videos prompt consumers to visit to view all of the campaign?s posters and videos.

What makes Instagram unique is that it is an aspirational platform that lends itself well to creating compelling short stories that resonate well with beer and spirit brands.

Besides Instagram and Facebook, Matt Holliday, content strategist at BFG Communications, Hilton Head, SC, said that the agency has found YouTube pre-roll mobile ads effective. These ads can be bought against relevant content and force consumers to either watch a clip or click to skip the ad.

?It?s certainly a very visual vertical ? there really isn?t too much that is print-driven in spirits brands, especially beer brands,? Mr. Holliday said.

?The visual medium du jour being video, it is a pretty natural evolution, I think,? he said.

Creative limitations
Beer brands have no doubt gravitated towards mobile and digital video, but the medium also presents a number of challenges that are unique to the vertical such as age gating that halts a longer form of engagement.

Additionally, consumers may be watching a beer brand?s ads when they are at a noisy sports event or bar, weakening the branding potential since viewers are not immersed in content.

Brands also need to think of ways to keep the brand messaging continually moving with mobile and digital-only video.

Newcastle Brown Ale, for instance, skipped a big-budget Super Bowl spot this year, with a digital-only video that has now racked up more than five million YouTube views.

Newcastle's ad

Newcastle?s ad reiterates the point that brands need to think about unique ways to tell stories with digital-only content.

?The original spot was great, the teaser was great, but the fact that they went on to make these other micro-pieces of content that reference other commercials speaks to something much greater, which is an understanding of what agreement you enter into by reaching people on digital-first platforms,? Deutsch NY?s Mr. Lindenbaum said.

?The agreement is that you?re not just there to message to them, you are there to reflect their assumption, reflect their opinions, validate their opinions and participate in a conversation with them, which means not just one communication and you?re done ? that doesn?t feel like a mobile experience to me,? he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York