City & Corporate - InBev achieves an iconic takeover

InBev's takeover bid of Anheuser-Busch Client: InBev PR team: Cantos Communications and Brunswick Timescale: June-July 2008 Budget: Not disclosed, but believed to be c. £130,000-£150,000

 

In June, Belgium-based brewer InBev, the maker of Stella Artois and Becks, announced its plans for a cash takeover of America's leading brewer Anheuser-Busch. Anheuser-Busch is better known as the producer of the two best-selling beers in the world, Budweiser and Bud Light.

Anheuser-Busch prides itself on its all-American heritage, and as a result InBev, which holds the number one or two spot in more than 20 markets, met with resistance in the US. The MidWest was particularly sceptical about such an iconic brand being taken over by foreigners with a reputation for cost-cutting.

InBev brought in Cantos Communications, an online financial broadcaster that provides video interviews from business leaders and top market professionals. The brewer understood company websites are the first place people go to find out more about deals, and key messages can be delivered instantly to global audiences, with a friendly twist.

OBJECTIVES

- To develop a comms strategy to explain the rationale behind the takeover

- To address concerns and reassure key audiences that InBev wants to build on the Bud heritage and keep its US breweries

- To set a friendly, committed and collaborative tone.

STRATEGY AND PLAN

Video is one of the most powerful ways to convey messages, so InBev hired Cantos to create a microsite that featured interviews with key players in the takeover.

One of these was InBev CEO Carlos Brito. The microsite globalbeerleader.com was created, and Cantos hosted and streamed all content. It also featured the Brito interviews on its own site cantos.com.

Cantos filmed interviews in both the US and Belgium and the Brito interviews were published at key points in the process. This explained the rationale for the deal, and InBev's future plans for Anheuser-Busch.

The microsite also included a number of video case studies, some new (produced by Cantos) and some existing ones, focusing on InBev's heritage and commitment to building brands globally.

To reach as wide an audience as possible, Cantos published the videos in various formats and made them available on vodcasts and podcasts. It also created a download page for broadcast media access.

Email alerts went out to more than 25,000 people globally.

MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION

There were more than 25,000 views of the globalbeerleader.com and cantos.com throughout the takeover campaign. Total video downloads on the download page numbered more than 3,000.

Significant positive coverage in global media was achieved, including Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Forbes, Bloomberg and Reuters. Trade press including Modern Brewery Age covered the deal, and there was television coverage from CNN and CBS.

Viewers from more than 45 countries watched the videos.

RESULTS

All feedback suggests the video interviews were a real advantage to InBev's quest to secure a friendly takeover, in stark contrast with the loud silence emanating from the Anheuser-Busch camp.

'Experts attribute InBev's PR coup to an open and aggressive approach involving a barrage of video messages from its CEO,' said Advertising Age. 'It has managed to look sympathetic, no small feat for a foreign company, with a reputation for savage cost-cutting, that is laying siege to an iconic, family-run US marketer associated with well-loved symbols.'

Beer Markerter's Insights agreed, saying: 'InBev has always been one step ahead. It has been like an octopus, seemingly everywhere, covering every angle, while Anheuser-Busch has been mostly quiet.'

 

Second Opinion

Christian Mahne, Head, Lansons Live, Lansons Communications

History, according to Michel Foucault, is the propaganda of the victor and Cantos certainly got its winning words out early. Its microsite for the deal is necessarily dry and the unavoidable disclaimer tedious, but the content wins the day.

It is excellent to see InBev CEO Carlos Brito up there and accessible - to look into his eyes and make up your own mind about the man. Contrast that with the almost sullen silence throughout from Anheuser. The InBev background videos are interesting and well made. As the internet comes of age as a video distribution platform, Cantos is there to meet it.

When it comes to content, we as an industry need to move our clients away from soft pre-agreed lines of questioning towards more credible, editorially rigorous discussion. This is where Cantos slips a little. The impact of Brito's clips is lessened because they don't tell us much we didn't already know or expect.

Content is nothing without distribution. Waterloo may have been won on the playing fields of Eton but takeovers like this are won in front of computers and TV screens. These days, whether you're a player or a pundit, you go to the internet first for more information. In a world where perception is reality, Cantos won the battle for shareholder hearts and minds by presenting a multimedia onslaught of InBev's point of view, unopposed. It did it through the microsite, its own website and syndication partners. A good campaign well executed.

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