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Jul 30, 2009

Southern Comfort Pours Entire Media Budget Into Digital

Move Allows Brand to Buy Popular Network Shows Online Instead of Overcrowded Cable Fare

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Brown-Forman's Southern Comfort brand -- weary of jostling for notice with other spirits brands during the narrow nightly window when they are permitted to advertise on cable -- is taking its entire media buy digital, allowing it access to programs online it couldn't touch on TV.

SoCo is a presenting sponsor of Playboy's 'Uncovered.'
SoCo is a presenting sponsor of Playboy's 'Uncovered.'
Last year, SoCo spent $6 million of its $8 million measured media outlay on cable TV, and another $1.5 million on magazine ads. This year, both those numbers will drop to zero in favor of online properties such as Facebook, Spin, Fader, Pitchfork, Thrillist and Hulu.

Lena DerOhannessian, the brand's U.S. marketing director, said SoCo's tight focus on the youngest legal-drinking-age consumers drove the shift. "As we've focused more on 21 to 29, TV becomes less and less effective at reaching that audience," she said. "It was getting harder and harder to hit our target without so much waste."

The issue, Ms. DerOhannessian said, was the intense crowding of spirits brands within a few nightly cable shows, a result of restrictive rules about where and when spirits companies are permitted to advertise. (National networks still do not accept liquor advertising, although a growing number of affiliates have been breaking with that practice of late.)

"You're usually in the same program, if not the same pod, with another spirits advertiser," she said. "That was just a game we didn't want to keep playing." Instead, SoCo is opting to grab digital properties where it can be the sole alcohol sponsor. And those include network programs that the brand would've been forbidden from touching on TV (see the full list at the bottom of this story).

It's also cheaper. Ms. DerOhannessian said savings from the switch to a 100% digital media buy will allow the brand to bolster its presence in bars and at retail, as well as through events. It will also give it a significant footprint online, where a $10 million budget stretches very far.

The media-budget shift comes amid tough sales trends for the brand. It suffered a mid-single-digit sales decline during the fiscal year that ended April 30, Brown-Forman Chief Financial Officer Don Berg told Wall Street analysts on a June earnings call. "Southern Comfort has suffered from the consumer switch to the off-premise, where consumers are less inclined to make complicated drinks," he said.

The brand's media agency is Interpublic's Universal McCann, and its creative shop is Havas' Arnold Worldwide.

Southern Comfort's digital partnerships

Facebook: Fan page featuring custom video, exclusive events, party pics, SMS programs, news, recipes and video clips.

Spin: Sponsorship of the top 50 cover songs of all time, with 10 free downloads, "tab covered by" Southern Comfort.

Playboy: Presenting sponsorship of the Playboy "Uncovered" series highlighting artists paying tribute to legends who have inspired them.

Fader's 'At the Bar' series
Fader's 'At the Bar' series

The Fader: "At the Bar" with Southern Comfort series featuring 10 pop-up sessions with local artists performing acoustically and discussing their musical influences.

Pitchfork: "Faces in the Crowd" series featuring artist interviews by fans, Pitchfork Music Festival, Monolith Festival and Voodoo Experience.

Thrillist: E-newsletters touting the brand, story, events and drinks.

NBC: Online spots running in and around prime-time NBC shows such as "30 Rock," "The Office," "Jay Leno," "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien" and "Saturday Night Live," among others.

NBC Local: Friday-through-Sunday takeover of the "What You're Doing Tonight" section, with home-page coverage before each Southern Comfort music-series event.

Break.com: "Southern Comfort House Rules!" original series featuring a cast of characters showcasing how they prepare for, host and entertain during various themed house parties.

My Damn Channel: Sponsorship of "Grace Crashers," an original series starring Grace Helbig as the ultimate party crasher as she and her crew show up unannounced at parties around Halloween, Holiday and Mardi Gras

Comedy Central: "Holiday Survival Guide" featuring Comedy Central comedians providing tips for getting out of sticky holiday situations.

Hulu: First spirits advertiser to run the Ad Selector model, where consumers will be able to choose the Southern Comfort message they want to watch.

CBS, Fox and FX: Full player takeovers around top-rated prime-time shows such as "How I Met Your Mother," "Late Show With David Letterman," "Rules of Engagement," "CSI," "24" and "Arrested Development," among others.

Jul 26, 2009

Advertisers, Consumers Disagree on Ad Effectiveness (Harris)


Advertisers, Consumers Disagree on Ad Effectiveness

Though advertisers and consumers both agree that amusing ads are effective and scary and guilt-inducing ads are not, they don’t see eye-to-eye on the efficacy of other types of advertising appeals, including those that make people stop and think, provide new information, and show before/after scenarios, according to (pdf) a LinkedIn Research Network/Harris Poll.


The study also found that ads that “talk money,” including those that show a value proposition and offer luxuries for less during the recession are much more appealing to consumers than those that take an empathetic or cheerleading approach in these times of economic hardship.


Effectiveness of Specific Ad Types

When it comes to types of ads, the study found that advertisers and consumers agree on the effectiveness of some, but disagree on others:

  • While more than half of advertisers believe ads that make people stop and think (53%) and ads that give people new information (51%) are very effective, just three in ten consumers (30% and 29% respectively) feel the same.
  • 26% of advertisers think ads that are integrated into the feel of the program, that is has the same tone as the program it is based in, are very effective compared with just 7% of consumers.
  • When it comes to ads that show before/after, 24% of advertisers say they are very effective while 13% of consumers say they are very effective.
  • One in five advertisers (21%) say ads that reinforce a message already known are very effective, compared with only 10% of consumers.
  • Consumers and advertisers both like ads that amuse. More than one-third (34%) of consumers and 41% of advertisers say entertaining ads are very effective, and one-third of both consumers (33%) and advertisers (32%) say funny ads are very effective. However, there is a fine line in amusement as just one in ten consumers (11%) and 14% of advertisers say ads that don’t take themselves seriously are very effective. Almost one in five consumers (18%) say these ads are not at all effective.
  • 41% of consumers (41%) 32% of advertisers believe that scary ads are not at all effective.
  • 27% of consumers and 18% of advertisers say ads about a serious topic that make people feel guilty are not at all effective.

Recession Consumers Like Value Propositions

The study also examined the perceived effectiveness of ads currently being used to address the economic crisis, and revealed that value proposition strategies and “luxuries for less” approaches resonate most with consumers.

Notable findings:

  • Three in five advertisers (61%) say they are using a value proposition strategy, promoting sales, coupons and discounts. Almost three in five consumers (57%) say that this strategy is working very well or well to help them sell their products or services.
  • Two in five advertisers (39%) are using empathy approaches, attempting to convey that companies understand what consumers are going through. But only one-quarter of consumers (24%) say empathy works very or somewhat well, and one-third (33%) say it does not work at all.
  • One-fourth of advertisers (25%) say they are using cheerleading (”we’ve made it through tough times before, we’ll do it again, and we can help you do it.”) Almost two in five (38%) of consumers, however, say that these types of ads do not work at all.
  • Though less than one in five advertisers (18%) say they are using the “luxuries for less” proposition, one-third of consumers (34%) say these types of ads work very well or well in selling products or services

The study also found that there is a generational divide as the younger age groups (18- 34) are more likely to say each of these four strategies works very well or well. In fact, more than half of 18-34 year olds (51%) say they think “luxuries for less” works very well or well compared to just 19% of those 55 and older.


Previously published results from the same poll also revealed that consumers are very frustrated by many of today’s popular types of internet ads.

About the survey: The poll was conducted online within the US from June 24-26, 2009, among 2,025 adults (ages 18+) and between June 22 and 30, 2009 among 1,105 advertisers. For the adults, figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents‘ propensity to be online. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population.

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