Tear Down This Wall: Bud.TV Held to Ridiculous Standards

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

Anheuser-Busch should ignore the claims of regulators and get a less-aggressive digital bouncer for Bud.TV.

A-B should not only stand its ground in this case; it should argue its right to put in place an age-verification system that isn't such a burden on its viewers.

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Here we have a major marketer trying to think beyond the confines of the current online landscape: Forget the debate over 15-second pre-roll vs. banner ads -- we'll simply create a content channel!

And then along come the naysayers and regulators to crush the concept lest this media monstrosity grow out of control and damage our children irreparably.

One could point out that Bud.TV is operating well within the confines of the Beer Institute's Advertising and Marketing Code. But that never impresses alcohol-industry watchdog groups, unhappy that the industry regulates itself without benefit of Big Nanny.

Never mind such groups. Their recent protests about mojito-flavored gum or declarations that "outdoor alcohol advertisements endanger children" show how unserious they are. Sharp objects, perverts and rabid animals are things that endanger children. Advertisements don't. And butterscotch candy or rum-raisin ice cream never turned anyone into an alcoholic.

But the state attorneys general are another matter entirely. They argue that because Bud.TV is a media channel, A-B has even more responsibility to avoid marketing to youth.

What more can the company do? Already, it's put in place an age-verification system so intrusive that it should raise the hackles of privacy watchdog groups. It's so good, in fact, it even keeps adults out.

No other content provider demands a driver's license number simply to view content. By the rationale of the attorneys general, CBS.com and Fox.com should do the same because of objectionable entertainment programming and violent news footage.

Bud.TV isn't selling beer any more than Fox.com is selling a Jack Bauer line of guns. So even if Little Johnny can figure out how to get past Bud's filter, he can't buy or drink beer at Bud.TV.

The fact is, Bud.TV is held to a stricter standard than a pornography site, where a fake birthday is all the proof a kid needs to view (and conceivably purchase or download) all the porn he desires.

A-B should not only stand its ground in this case; it should argue its right to put in place an age-verification system that isn't such a burden on its viewers. And then it can work on producing content people actually want to see.
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