Last week Anheuser-Busch finally pulled the plug on its ambitious and yet deeply flawed branded content venture Bud.tv. Launched after the Superbowl in January 2007, Budweiser’s online comedy channel was heralded as the future of advertising, where consumers ‘pull’ on branded content rather than tolerate having ads ‘pushed’ at them. $30m is estimated to have been spent on it in its first year alone, with top writers from Letterman, Da Ali G show and the Tonight Show coming on board. The rationale for A-B was that Budweiser makes funny, popular ads, and therefore it was well placed to launch a comedy channel.


However, if content is king, then distribution is the kingmaker. Determined to go it alone and be free of 3rd party media channels in the distribution of its programmes, A-B launched Bud.tv just as the web was moving away from a collection of lots of video websites, to the YouTube model of a single system allowing fast and efficient portability. This meant that no one was able to share / spread the content via social networking sites and after a few months its traffic was so low that Comscore was unable to measure it. Combined with a cumbersome registration process, to verify the age of visitors, Bud.tv was a good example of how not to do branded content.

A-B are not the only ones to have made the mistake of thinking that pull communications is just about great content (‘content is king’). In July 2006 Coke created a destination site that allowed users to upload and share their content in the same way as YouTube. It too failed to attract a following and Coke changed their strategy to one of greater integration into social networks and 3rd party content channels. And in the very same week that Bud.tv died, Adidas.TV had a soft launch:



In contrast to Bud.tv Adidas are fully embracing third party content and social networking services. They are not only syndicating their content, allowing users to take the content wherever they want, they are also taking feeds from some of their big NBA stars’ content from YouTube, Flickr and Twitter. Instead of locking their content into a single site as Bud did, Adidas has a model of circulating content.

Daniel Stein, the CEO of EVB who created Adidas.TV, sums up the strategy: “The point is less about getting people to the site. It’s more about getting the content to the people.” Let’s hope that they have greater success with this strategy and, ahem, that branded content channels haven’t been nipped in the Bud…