• No Ringing Endorsement for Anheuser-Busch Cell Phone Deal
  • April 26, 2006
  • Law Firm: Reed Smith LLP - Pittsburgh Office
  • Anheuser-Busch struck a deal it thought was a great way to reach the all-important 21- to 35-year-old beer-drinking demographic -- by advertising on cell phones.

    But the deal to run ads along with MobiTV's television content, which is being delivered to more than 1 million cell phone subscribers, has drawn the ire of an alcohol industry watchdog.

    The Marin Institute says the popularity of cell phones among teens, combined with the fact that cell phones are considered to be unmeasured media, creates the appearance that A-B is skewing its advertising to reach a young audience.

    Anheuser-Busch disputes that claim, stating that 82 percent of the MobiTV's subscribers are over 21. While MobiTV did not confirm that number, a company spokesperson told reporters that a small number of its subscribers are under the drinking age. The company is aware of the issue, he said.

    MobiTV provides television programming from ABC, Fox, MSNBC and ESPN to subscribers of the U.S. Sprint, Cingular and Alltel cell phone services. In its deal with MobiTV, A-B would broadcast 18 ads per hour across MobiTV's 30 channels.

    The Beer Institute's Advertising and Marketing Code requires advertisers to confine their ads to magazines, and television and radio programs with audiences comprised of at least 70 percent of adults of drinking age.

    Advertising Age's American Demographics reports that 81 percent of 18- to 21-year-olds have cell phones, as do 68 percent of 16- to 17-year-olds and 49 percent of 13- to 15-year-olds.

    Why This Matters: Reaching young adults but not teenagers, regardless of medium, is difficult. With traditional media, advertisers have a responsibility to ensure they have reliable demographic measurements to make certain they are not advertising in media that falls below the threshold percentage of adult audience members. With new media, it is advisable to seek demographic support for advertising decisions as well.