Bud Light Will Test Snapchat’s Age-Gated Ads as the App’s First Alcohol Brand

Whatever, USA, comes to social media all weekend

After running the first ad on Tinder last month, Bud Light has locked down a partnership with the other hottest app for millennials—Snapchat.

As part of this weekend's Whatever, USA, event at Catalina Island, the Anheuser-Busch brand is the first alcohol name on the platform and is taking advantage of the Stories section of Snapchat—the strings of photos and videos that users share and curate at events.

It's Snapchat's newest attempt to get brands into feeds that millions of millennials watch every day. Cities such as New York have weekly Stories that pull together interesting content, and brands like Samsung have bought ads for events like the American Music Awards. But Bud Light's campaign is an interesting use since it's for a branded event. The Story will be labeled as "sponsored" and Whatever, USA, before a user clicks to open it.

On Saturday and Sunday, attendees at Whatever, USA, will be able to share photos and videos through the Story. A team of Snapchat staffers will also be on site to pick the best user-generated content to feature.

Between the streams of user-generated content, Bud Light is running interstitial ads. Lucas Herscovici, A-B InBev's vp of consumer connections said the seconds-long promos are designed specifically for the platform. For example, one ad shows a beer bottle moving in slow motion. A glass overflows with beer in another spot.

Per Snapchat, the ads are age-gated so that only consumers who are 21 years or older will see them. That information is pulled from the birth date that is required to set up an account.

"It's important for us to stay up to speed and always be ahead of the curve in the digital channels where consumers spend their time, so Snapchat today is the platform where millennials spend a lot of time messaging with their friends," Herscovici said. "We found this as an appropriate opportunity to partner with Snapchat to have a live story where we allow consumers who are not able to be in Whatever, USA to see what's happening there in an authentic way."

It's the latest move from the social app to rake in money from big brands. While marketers love Snapchat's size of 100 million users, advertisers haven't been able to target ads up until now.

Targeting ads on date of birth is a small, but important, step for Snapchat to be taken seriously as an advertising platform for brands. After initially charging advertisers $750,000 for one-day ads earlier this year, the app rolled out 2-cent-per-view video ads in May that live within Discover, a section where publishers like Cosmopolitan and the Daily Mail push out daily content that advertisers can buy space against.

"What I think is really fascinating about this is that brands as content producers is changing," said Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, Bud Light's agency behind the campaign. "This is a culmination of a live activation event that's going to have a ton of content that's going to be recorded, curated and spit out natively in the way that people consume content everywhere else."

Buzzy Snaps

According to a Bloomberg piece this week, 60 percent of Americans aged 13 to 34 years old are active on the app, watching two billion videos per day.

Because Snapchat does skew towards younger users, it's not clear how many will actually be served Bud Light's ad this weekend, but it's likely a significantly smaller percentage of users than previous Snapchat advertisers have reached.

For years, alcohol brands have struggled with digital and social media because of age-gating restrictions and regulations. And there's a good chance that Bud Light could be walking into a hornet's nest by simply having a presence on an app primarily made up of teens, despite its use of the age gate.

"It's extremely disappointing that Bud Light is promoting alcohol consumption and being 'up for whatever' on a platform that is very popular with young teens," said Josh Golin, associate director at Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a national coalition that works to protect kids from harmful marketing. "As long as it's a platform that caters to an underage audience, Snapchat should remain an alcohol ad-free zone."

Either way, it will be intriguing to see if Bud Light's campaign opens up the floodgates for other alcohol marketers on Snapchat.

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