This Bud’s for cord-cutters: a talk with Anheuser-Busch’s Laurel Van Tassel

Man and woman sitting on stage at Programmatic IO

Consumers are watching their favorite shows and live events on their terms, and they increasingly don’t need a cable package to do so. The rise of Connected TV (CTV) has challenged brands to get strategic and evolve their video ad buys to reach the over 200M CTV users in the U.S. next year.1 
Even brands that have been responsible for some of the most iconic television campaigns of all time are investing in emerging channels to target cord-cutting audiences and measure impact. We sat down with Laurel Van Tassel, US Head of Programmatic & Data for Anheuser Busch, for an inside look into their strategy, challenges and successes.

Q: In your opinion, why are we seeing this growth in CTV?

From a consumer standpoint, there’s never been a better opportunity to personalize the entertainment experience through bundling channels and shows. We’re happy to follow the trend as a brand because CTV offers all the benefits of TV with the targeting capabilities of digital. Viewers want more affordable content options and advertising makes that possible. 

Q: There’s no shortage of emerging channels in the programmatic landscape. How does Anheuser Busch prioritize formats when looking to innovate across your business? 

We always start with the consumer and their media consumption behavior. Then, based on the objective, we look to see which channels best suit our goals. Are we trying to drive incremental reach? Then we’ll look at CTV. Are we trying to reach consumers on-premise? We’ll innovate in the DOOH space. Right now, 80% of what we invest in is proven, so within that other 20% we leave room to explore what’s new. That way, we can continually test and learn with our objective in mind.

Q: How does Anheuser Busch approach CTV planning? 

We view video as an overall strategy instead of siloed broadcast or CTV buys. That way we have a lot more room for fluidity within our investment. Linear TV is still our overall reach driver, but CTV allows us to drive effective, incremental reach with consumers engaging in content that often can’t be found on traditional broadcast.  

Q: Demands for transparency are greater than ever. What hygiene do you perform to ensure high-quality, accurate targeting with data and supply? 

Our focus is on first-party data and putting consumer experiences first. We’re so ingrained with cultural events and sports that we have a lot of touch points with beer drinkers - and opportunities to collect data. But we have to stop and think about why consumers would want to give us information, not simply collect it for data’s sake.
For supply, there’s no denying the programmatic ad-tech space is complex. It’s easy to lose sight of who does what and the value they add. That’s why we’re undergoing a supply path optimization project to reduce the number of partners we work with so we can have fewer and better relationships. 

Q: Are measurement and measurability a deal breaker in your TV strategy?

Measurement is key to evaluating media. While it’s difficult to compare channels apples to apples, it’s important to explore measurement options and understand where there are needs to push measurement in certain directions. We do run studies to understand incremental lift across CTV and TV. We’re also engaging with measurement partners to understand viewability.
In the larger picture, data doesn’t necessarily mean insights. What’s important is that measurement is consistent across channels to allow us to better make investment decisions.

Q: What do you look for in an ideal platform partner, considering the challenges of transparency, inventory, data and measurement needed for a successful campaign? 

At the end of the day, we want to put people at the center of everything we do, and therefore we want to make sure that consumers have a positive experience when interacting with our brands. We look for partners who can help us go the extra mile in this people-first marketing world. How can we use data to make ads more personalized and create better experiences? How can we build campaigns that can be locally relevant? How can we better approach our multicultural audiences? These are all opportunities Advanced TV gives us, and we look for partners who are aligned with our goals. 


Interested in more information about newer advertising channels? Check out our guide that curates the latest news, insights and solutions across digital out-of-home, audio, connected TV and interactive advertising.

1eMarketer, 2019