AGs to A-B: “Underage Drinkers Can’t Click With”

I took note of an Ad Age article from last week about’s “Walled Beer Garden.” The piece questioned the effectiveness of the site.

No matter how good content is, it has to be shareable, and that’s where the venture falls short. In, A-B and DDB, Chicago, have essentially created a walled beer garden of content that, though free, is just about as antiviral as you can be in the digital age.

I took note because I work in an even more tighly regulated industry. Yes, dear AdPulpians, when I’m not typing for your pleasure, I help sell “sticks.” Sticks is tobacco industry jargon for cigarettes.
Today, Ad Age is back with a follow up piece about how 21 state attorney generals are on the brewer’s back, saying they need to do more to restrict their content to adult beer drinkers.

As so often seems to be the case today, the marketer finds itself trapped between the easy-access advocates among internet-savvy consumers and the lawyers and politicos who often seem to have advertisers in their cross hairs.
The missive could be read as a warning to any marketer delivering its own content. While it glosses over the fact that you can’t actually buy beer on the A-B site, it stresses in several places that the states’ concerns are heightened precisely because the marketer “controls the medium and the message.”

This last bit about controlling the medium is the reality of the modern mediascape. Marketers clearly have the rights to develop branded communities, online or off. The age-verification hurdle is another matter entirely. The tobacco client I work for elects to third-party verify all web users. From a marketing perspective, it’s a pole vault without the pole, but it’s also the reality of marketing dangerous products in a litigious society.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.