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Why Jim Beam Is Running Snapchat Ads to Launch a New Apple-Flavored Bourbon

Liquor brand targets millennials

Jim Beam zeroes in on Snapchat. Instagram

Snapchat is a risky place for alcohol brands to play. Sixty-three percent of its monthly users are between the ages of 13 and 24, leaving a small pocket of people who are over 21. But that group of legal-age users still includes millions of millennials who use Snapchat every day, which is why the messaging app is Jim Beam's top marketing priority this fall.

The liquor player is running video ads within a bevy of Live Stories, the chains of photos and videos Snapchat curates at events, through October to promote Jim Beam Apple. Over the recent Labor Day weekend, for example, 10-second promos showing a drink being poured and swirled over ice ran alongside user-generated clips of people celebrating the holiday.

"It's a great reach for millennial targets—right now, it's a white space for us," said Brittney Duncan, U.S. media manager at Beam Suntory, Jim Beam's parent company. "It's not cluttered with ads, which allows us to have a high-impact [campaign]."

To make sure the ads are only shown to folks of legal drinking age, they're served based on a user's birthday, which is required to create an account. Age-gating is one of Snapchat's few options for ad targeting.

The app intentionally doesn't offer a lot of data-backed buying options for brands (CEO Evan Spiegel thinks targeted ads are "creepy"), but it's a basic requirement for alcohol brands that have to adhere to strict regulations about advertising to minors. Bud Light was the first brand to test Snapchat's age-gating in May for its Whatever, USA party.

Snapchat's 21-and-over audience represents 82 percent of its total user base, according to comScore and Nielsen data provided by Starcom, Jim Beam's media agency. So, the idea behind the campaign is to blast the ads to cover a wide group of interests, achieving the biggest reach among that audience of legal drinking age. Later this month, the ads will appear in the Oktoberfest and Mid-Autumn Festival Live Stories as well as a weeklong series that explores Hawaii.

While the events are global, the ads will only pop up for U.S. users. "The intent is to make this a national partnership—it's different stories that could be happening all over the country and internationally," Duncan said.

Meanwhile, other alcohol-makers are also getting on board with Snapchat. Bacardi is currently running a similar campaign with videos that show people partying while drinking a lemonade-rum cocktail.

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