A-B InBev Goes Virtual in New Campaign for Beck’s

Brew Puts ‘Green Box’ Art Installations in Cities Around the World

Anheuser-Busch InBev has started an event-driven, augmented-reality campaign for Beck’s called the “Green Box Project” that mixes public art with mobile technology. The push is in an attempt to bring new attention to the brew, which has traditionally gotten less support than the brewer’s other two global brands, Budweiser and Stella Artois. It is the first campaign for Beck’s by Mother, which won the global account in December.

Here’s how it works: Green boxes measuring 6.5 feet cubed will be placed in spots in London, Miami, Milan, New York, Rome and elsewhere. There is actually nothing in the box. Rather, passersby are directed to download a special mobile application to their smartphones. When pointed at the boxes, the app will reveal art. (A-B InBev said the boxes will be clearly marked as a promotion, to avoid raising suspicions by pedestrians.)

“You have, so to speak, a pair of glasses that allows you to experience what is inside of the Beck’s green box,” said Peter van Overstraeten, global marketing manager for the brands. “Every box is filled with a piece of art, fashion, music or design or a combination of those, because we’re talking about those four passion points of our target consumer.”

The brewer has commissioned artists for the first 30 exhibits in 2011, including some works of sculpture, the images of which will be scanned into the app. A-B InBev will also run a contest in which users can submit their own ideas to the Beck’s website, with winners getting their own box displays. Mr. Overstraeten said there could eventually be some 1,000 displays across the more than 80 countries where Beck’s is sold. The first installation kicked off last weekend and features a giant virtual red flame designed by Belgian-born artist Arne Quinze that looks as though it is shooting from the Statue of Liberty. (There is no box associated with this one.)

At the same time, Beck’s has unveiled a new tagline, “Just Part of the Story,” meant to position the new campaign as part of the broader narrative of the brand, which was founded in 1873 in Germany and has long touted links with art and music.

Despite designating Beck’s as one of its three “focus” brands, A-B InBev has spent relatively little on it in the U.S. — about $3.7 million in measured media in 2009 and a mere $5,700 last year, according to Kantar Media. Even so, the brew has made gains, with sales up 6.6% in the U.S. to $59.7 million in grocery sales in the year ended May 15, making it the 12th best-selling import, according to SymphonyIRI, which excludes Walmart and liquor stores.

Does the brewer plan to spend more on Beck’s? Ad Age asked that and other questions in a recent interview with Mr. Overstraeten:

Ad Age: The new campaign sounds very neat and cool, but can you explain how it is is going to help you sell more beer?

Mr. Overstraeten: The consumer that we’re targeting, just like with a lot of our beers, is all about enjoyment. So what we’re actually doing with these boxes is we bring enjoyment to two consumer types. To the creators themselves, by providing them an opportunity to create something that can go into a box, to have their own box.

There’s also a lot of people that enjoy and consume creativity that like to go to galleries. … We give them a constant stream of entertainment, of enjoyment, by providing them cool and neat experiences through the green boxes. It’s really a celebration of independent thought, which is what Beck’s is all about.

Ad Age: Will there be any traditional media support?

Mr. Overstraeten: The whole thing is rooted in the experiential part and rooted in the digital part. So the [TV] and out-of-home is to support, is to drive people to the actual program. So it’s not as if Beck’s is coming out with a new [TV campaign] and some experiential. It’s the other way around.

Ad Age: How many agencies are working on this?

Mr. Overstraeten: It’s co-developed with Mother. Mother is the creative agency. The rollout is done by A-B InBev.

Ad Age: Compared with your other global focus brands [Bud and Stella], Beck’s seems to get less traditional media support and less overall spending. Can you explain why that’s the case and is there any plan to change that?

Mr. Overstraeten: On that I cannot comment any further because it goes a bit too much into the strategy of the brand.

Ad Age: But can you talk more generally about Beck’s being a global focus brand and do you plan to invest more on the brand?

Mr. Overstraeten: What we try to do with Beck’s is to be super-consumer-oriented. Showing what we’re all about is more important than shouting what we’re all about. And I would say it’s the same for the spending.

Ad Age: Compare Beck’s to Stella and Budweiser. Where does Beck’s fit?

Mr. Overstraeten: We are the brand for the independent thinkers and people interested in the newer and the more cultural experiences.

Ad Age: How are you dealing with new competition from upscale, regional craft beers which seem to play in the same space as Beck’s?

Mr. Overstraeten: Beck’s is such a jewel. We have that tradition to be brewing, according to the Reinheitsgebot [which refers to the German Purity Law of 1516 that calls for beer to be made only from water, hops, barely and yeast]. We have the high-quality part. We also have that very authentic and different heritage — to do all of those things in the world of arts and fashion. We focus on those and we know that consumers find this a very engaging proposition.

Ad Age: Of the many brands in the A-B InBev portfolio, why did the company make Beck’s a global brand?

Mr. Overstraeten: We have that history of being very cosmopolitan. At one point in time, the Beck’s brewery decided to only go export. If you look at Beck’s being a global brand, it is in the DNA of Beck’s to go out and to discover and travel around the world.

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