AB InBev On Why Advertisers Are Starting To Act More Like Publishers

Richard Oppy, VP of global brands for Anheuser-Busch InBev

“So much in life happens over a beer,” says Richard Oppy, VP of global brands for Anheuser-Busch InBev.

And now that life is starting to return to some semblance of normality, AB InBev is pouring its efforts into a marketing strategy centered on getting people out of the house.

The theme of a recently launched campaign for Corona is to inspire reconnection with travel and the great outdoors, and AB InBev will soon roll out a new campaign for Stella Artois called “Your Table Is Ready” It features experiential activations to motivate people to eat and drink at restaurants.

“It’s been a tough 12 to 18 months, but we’re moving from a time of doom and gloom to a time of euphoria,” said Oppy, who has a wide purview. He works across the Stella, Budweiser and Corona brands in all markets outside of the US and on the Michelob Ultra brand globally.

“People want to get back to live music, to sports, pubs, night clubs – there’s so much to get excited about and there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

Oppy spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: How would you describe AB InBev’s approach to data?

RICHARD OPPY: We’re getting better at getting clean data into our DMP, although it’s becoming a bigger challenge because of what’s happening with third-party data. And so that’s causing us to put more emphasis on building first-party data. We need to be able to talk to our audience, personalize at scale and cross reference with other social platforms while also thinking about data privacy.

There’s going to be a race as to who will be the best full-funnel marketers. DTCs, for example, are very good with their data at the bottom of the funnel and using retargeting to drive conversions.

What is AB InBev prioritizing in its marketing right now?

Making connections has never been more important than now. We’re taking the universal insights we have about our brands and the consumer intentions behind each as we build campaigns and decide where to spend money.

For example, Budweiser pulled out of the Super Bowl for the first time in 37 years this year to put money toward helping encourage people to get vaccinated.

Overall, though, our global marketing is built on four key pillars. The first is creativity and using creativity to solve consumer problems. The second is publishing, because we’ve found that we often act more like publishers than we do traditional advertisers. Third is innovation, and not just product innovation. Our brand expansions team is working on things like merchandise and experiential. If people wear our merchandise, that’s often better than paying for media. And the fourth pillar is sustainability. For Corona, that might be our commitment to zero plastic, and for Budweisier, our commitment to brew 100% of our beer sustainably around the world.

In what ways does AB InBev act more like a publisher than an advertiser?

We recently launched a global content studio called Corona Studios and we have a creative community we tap into around the world.

We’re moving from what you might call a disruption mindset with short-form content to an entertainment mindset. Each of our brands plays to a different passion point. Stella is related to food, Budweiser to sports and music and Corona to travel and the outdoors.

Stella, for example, is the brand we want to associate with people looking to elevate the meal occasion and as a place to seek out food content, like where are the best restaurants and recipes for cooking at home. To do this, we’re leading with insights.

What sort of insights?

We’re creating hundreds of pieces of content, and what we love about digital is the ability to measure. We can easily see the drop-off rate and whether there’s a high view-through and engagement, which allows us to optimize.

We go out with organic content, we see what’s working and what isn’t and we adjust accordingly. If content is working, we fuel it with the media plan, and if it’s not, we can either pull it or modify it. Rather than relying on old-school traditional research, we have trigger points based on performance in the real world that inform how we invest our media.

What is AB InBev’s paid media strategy?

It comes down to the job that needs to be done. If we want to drive reach, we use short form, like GIFs or short films, while Facebook and Instagram are good for building reach at a low CPM. If we want to drive engagement and view-through, YouTube is better for long-form film, because people are in the right mindset. They’re not just flicking through their feeds and watching Stories.

We used to focus on the big 30-second TV spot and the bumpers, but now we spend as much time making sure that what we do is native for the platform. Brands still fall into the trap of using the same content everywhere.

We don’t want any dead ends with our content. It doesn’t have to convert directly, but we do want to see the impact it has on things like events and merchandise sales.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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