The Pernod Ricard Scotch whisky brand and MSN recently announced the launch of "This Is The Life," an online channel dedicated to extending the brand's long-running "Chivas Life" campaign.
But while Anheuser-Busch drew fire from state law-enforcement officials over age-verification measures that some attorneys general deemed insufficient, Chivas' age checks make A-B's look fortress-like by comparison. While Bud.TV required users to provide information from a government-issued ID (not necessarily their own), the Chivas site merely asks what year they were born.
"The age verification on the front end is a joke, "said David Jernigan, executive director of Georgetown University's Center for Alcohol Marketing & Youth. A spokeswoman for the Maine Attorney General's office, which led the charge against Bud.TV, said the age checks on the Chivas site were "not even close" to Bud.TV's level of stringency, which the AGs protested as insufficient.
A Pernod Ricard USA spokesman said the site was designed for consumers of legal drinking age and noted that the brand still targets older consumers than beer marketers typically do.
The Chivas channel breaks as the brand has lost ground within the U.S. to its chief rival, Diageo's Johnnie Walker, despite fast-growing sales worldwide. Between 2000 and 2005, Chivas' U.S. shipments declined about 1% annually, while Johnnie Walker Black Label -- priced closest to Chivas -- grew nearly 5% a year.
Johnnie Walker also moved more quickly and more aggressively onto the internet, which spirits brands are increasingly relying on to reach affluent drinkers. In 2005, Johnnie Walker spent about four times what Chivas did online ($203,000 to $51,000, according to TNS Media Intelligence, out of total media spending of $10.1 million and $6.7 million, respectively). In 2006, however, Chivas spent nearly $700,000 of its $6.9 million media budget online, exceeding Johnnie Walker's $273,000.
The online channel -- the latest manifestation of the brand's web ramp up -- shows affluent young Chivas enthusiasts cooking gourmet meals on 50-foot yachts, boutiquing, golfing and learning about hand-rolled cigars. The site also features footage from concerts at Chivas-sponsored concerts, as well as video auditions from couples hoping to land a $200,000-a-year gig as global Chivas-brand ambassadors.
Unlike Bud.TV, which featured a hefty amount of unbranded content, every clip is heavily branded. Another key distinction is that the site contains no features that would make it easy for users to download clips onto YouTube and other non-age-verified video-sharing sites.
"The Chivas Life campaign has always been about lifestyle," said a Pernod Ricard USA spokesman. "The internet lets us bring the stylish lifestyle into play in a more [forceful] fashion."