Anheuser-Busch InBev has taken a digital-first approach pushing its new Travis Scott-backed hard seltzer brand, Cacti, capitalizing on the rapper and fashion mogul’s strong social media following to build buzz for the agave-infused drink.
But the brewer turned to TV on the eve of the product’s official launch with an ad in the Sunday’s Grammys, handled by Scott’s agency Cactus Jack Creative Collective. Scott also directed the ad along with Trey Edward Shults. The spot portrays the fictional origin story of the brand, which Scott had a big hand in developing, including the name Cacti, which is derived from Cactus Jack, the sub-brand Scott created that he uses on various business exploits.
The branding blends Mexican imagery with a cosmic ethos. The spot depicts a group of people on motorcycles speeding through an agave field to discover the drink under an identified object that presumably fell from outer space. It ends by showing the drink being delivered to stores and culminates with a scene of a man (comedian and actor Eric Andre) shown on an old-school TV screen crushing a can after downing one. Scott makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo (that is him in the white hat at the 24-second mark).
The ad is more than just a little bit out there. But it would not be smart to bet against Scott, who has shown a knack for thrusting brands into pop culture in a way that translates to sales. His limited-time collaboration last year with McDonald’s, which took the form of The Travis Scott Meal—a Quarter Pounder with cheese, bacon and lettuce, and fries, with BBQ sauce and a Sprite for $6—was a huge success, spurring demand so strong that it led to an ingredient shortage at some locations.
AB InBev envisions a longer-term deal with Scott, saying in a statement that “this is a true partnership, not a limited edition ‘drop’ or one-off collaboration. Cacti marks Travis’ first foray into the beverage space and represents a long-term priority for all parties involved as they continue to revolutionize the beverage industry.”
Scott in a statement said: “This has been something I had a strong vision for and have wanted to do for a while. It was important to me to be heavily involved in the entire creative process; from the flavor obviously, to the can design, packaging and the entirety of the brand world we’ve built. I sought to create a beverage brand that was unlike others in the market.”
In an interview late last year with Ad Age, Lana Buchanan, VP of marketing for AB InBev’s so-called Beyond Beer division, elaborated on the digital-first approach, saying “the goal of any brand nowadays is to be … ‘proud to hold’ or ‘proud to drink.’ And the way that you really build that now is more around the social, the relevant content, interacting with [consumers] in different mediums, versus going in on TV.”
Asked why the brand now opted for a TV ad in the Grammys, she said in a statement that “a majority of our media is indeed digital and social, and we decided to use TV the night before launch to make a big statement and build excitement around Cacti's launch. We plan to always be digital first and will use TV to celebrate big releases or moments for the brand in the years to come.”
The TV buy of course also benefits from the contextual Grammys tie-in. Scott was nominated for best melodic rap performance for “Highest in the Room.”
Hear more about AB InBev’s beyond beer ambitions when Buchanan joins the “Ad Age Next: Food and Beverage” virtual event on March 23. Register here.