Bud Light Finds Another Way to Target Youth
In January, Anheuser-Busch, makers of the popular beer Bud Light, debuted an app for mobile devices called Bud Light Button, which promises delivery of Bud Light to your home in under an hour if you live in Washington D.C. The app is also linked to the company’s national “Up for Whatever” campaign, a sweepstakes with a range of prizes like a DJ and sound system delivered with your beer.
The app without question has negative implications for underage drinking, as moving the point of alcohol purchase to the doorstep – a private location – makes monitoring and enforcing underage drinking laws much harder. And while the app says that the purchaser’s ID will be checked upon delivery, a delivery person carrying four cases of beer has little incentive to refuse a fake ID when presented with a big tip. Moreover, home delivery circumvents barriers to alcohol purchase that help to impede binge drinking, like having to drive to the store, price concerns, or laws that deny alcohol service to people who are drunk.
As if this move weren’t bad enough, Anheuser-Busch recently took its marketing campaign a step further.
As part of “Up for Whatever,” the company put on its second “Whatever, USA” event, an all-expenses-paid, weekend-long party on Catalina Island for 1,000 of the company’s fans who entered to win. The event featured music, celebrities and, unsurprisingly, a lot of Bud Light.
The campaign was part of a huge marketing stunt designed to generate tons of content for the brand. But Anheuser-Busch stepped up their marketing efforts over what it did last year, striking a deal to be featured on the hugely popular app Snapchat.
Brands leverage social media all the time. So what’s the problem with this, and why is it of special concern? Well, 45 percent of Snapchat’s users are between the ages of 18 and 24, and more than 60 percent of Americans 13 to 34 use the app.
According to Snapchat, the ads were “age-gated,” meaning only users 21 and older would be able to see them (age information is pulled from the birth date users are required to enter to create an account). Despite this barrier, however, the idea that Anheuser-Busch invested heavily in having a presence on an app that primarily caters to the youth is unseemly – even if the people the company is going after are of legal drinking age.
Our research has found that companies like Anheuser-Busch make almost half of their profits from underage and excessive drinking. They therefore have every incentive to encourage these behaviors, and are well-versed in dodging existing regulations aimed at curbing unhealthy alcohol use.
Allowing the alcohol industry to capitalize on a technology that appeals directly to youth, like cell phone apps, will further compromise public health and increase the costs of risky alcohol use. The “Up for Whatever” campaign is something we are definitely not up for.
Emily Feinstein, JD
Emily Feinstein is Director of Health Law and Policy at CASAColumbia