Bud.TV: Beer and Burlesque Come to Broadband/What the show “Replaced by a Chimp” tells us about the future of Digital Media

We are unleashing the most powerful media system every developed. Two-way, lightening-fast, personalized. Ubiquitous, as we are connected everywhere: PC, TV, mobile. How does some of the Fortune 500 intend to use this new medium? Well, Anheuser-Busch’s Bud.TV is about to unleash at least seven broadband video channels. They already have programs in production. One is called “Replaced by a Chimp.” For each show, they will “grab a profession, such as a waiter, or a bartender, or a trial attorney and replace those people with a chimp, and film the reaction of the consumers who happen to be in the same environment as the chimp. And then, at the end of the show, the consumer will vote on whether the chimp should stay and continue on the job…” That’s according to Bud’s VP of digital marketing and brand entertainment. [Read the three-part iMediaconnection series here.]

While we think such a show has some unthought-of of possibilities (replace a President, Congressperson or DC-based ad industry lobbyist anyone?), what Anheuser-Busch and so many others plan to do with branded entertainment raises many serious concerns (not the least of which is that though they claim otherwise, Bud will be reaching the under age drinking age population via these methods). Bud intends to air what it calls a “documentary,” –it will be peppered with “product placements.” They are signing up well-known actors, such as Kevin Spacey and his TriggerStreet Productions, to create short films—and ultimately help endorse– their adnetwork. Bud.TV is negotiating with Rupert Murdoch so it can get a MySpace page for one of their “characters.” They are talking to NBC/Universal as well. They will use viral strategies to get consumers to make commercials for their beer, which will be shown on its very own channel–named “BudTube.” (I couldn’t make all this up if I tried!).

But hey, broadband and digital media will soon all be about interactive marketing, brand pushing, and data collection. I guess I better chill. After all, I might miss Bud.TV’s “happy hour” program. They’ve named it the “4:55 Show.”

PS: As we noted yesterday, advertisers and programmers want to return to the good old days when they jointly created content. We acknowledge that the 1950’s Today show star J. Fred Muggs might approve of the Bud Chimp idea.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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