Youth bar ads could be one over the eight

Is Diageo going too far in its pursuit of the youth market by screening lifestyle-related TV ads in the seclusion of their local?

TV ads are leaving the cosy confines of the sitting room and heading down to the pub.

Diageo-owned media company Translucis is offering drinks, fashion, technology and other youth lifestyle brands the chance to plug their products on TV screens in pubs and bars (MW November 16).

Silent ads, promotions, short films and entertainment will be broadcast via satellite to plasma screens in venues throughout the UK and are being tested under the name Ignite. The screens are linked to an electric point of sale (EPOS) system enabling Translucis to measure the correlation between a drinks brand’s exposure on screen and its sales behind the bar.

The scheme is being tested in bars in London and Manchester, with a national roll-out expected in spring 2001.

But some drinks manufacturers believe the advertising requires a cautious approach to ensure drinkers, in search of a relaxing and sociable environment, do not head for the door and a Translucis-free venue.

Advertisers are finding it increasingly difficult to target the 18to 24-year-old market through TV with the growth of youth leisure and the digital TV boom.

According to Mintel’s latest research, visiting pubs and bars is the most popular youth activity, with 79 per cent of 15to 29-year-olds going out to drink at least once a month.

This group is expected to spend more than half of its leisure income this year – &£10m – in drinking venues, according to Mintel.

As the UK prepares to scrap current licensing laws and move towards a 24-hour opening hours, the market is set to grow.

Translucis promises to give TV advertisers a new medium to recapture a bar culture generation notoriously difficult to reach because, in the company’s own words, the target market is “always down the pub”.

Sue Aitken, Translucis media director, says: “The opportunity is distinct from any other media because it is targeted precisely and catches the audience when they are away from all other media exposure.

“For drinks brands it provides the exciting opportunity to influence brand choice at the moment the decision is made,” she adds.

With 24-hour drinking on the horizon, pub owners will alter the ambience of their venues throughout the day to suit different types of drinker and different occasions.

Clare Dimond, corporate communications manager at UDV, the spirits arm of Translucis-owner Diagio, says: “We’re confident Translucis will become even more effective as a medium once advertisers start tailoring their ads to suit the ambience of the venues, making it even more relevant to the audience.”

However, punters may not appreciate being bombarded with ads telling them what to drink. One drinks industry insider says: “I think it’s a terrible idea. I would hate to have some wretched TV bombarding me with messages while I was trying to have a quiet pint.”

Scottish Courage director of communications David Jones says: “People tend to go to the pub to get away from the TV, and while we are always interested in new ways of communicating our brands, I have to question how receptive people will be to advertising in a pub environment.”

But Jones believes the new scheme offers an excellent opportunity for drinks companies if it is handled sensitively: “This could be used to bring your brand to the top of the customers’ mind when they get to the bar,” he says.

The Punch Group has launched Q TV, to flag up promotions and new products, in ten of its branded outlets. The company says that while some ads, such as the recent “Whassup?” Budweiser campaign, can have a marked effect on sales, pubs must steer clear of ad overkill.

“The content has to be relevant. The way you make it work is by linking advertising to a particular pub activity. Whether it would work for non-drink ads, I am not sure,” says Punch Group spokesman Steve Dann.

A spokeswoman for Bass, owner of branded pub chains O’Neills, All Bar One and It’s a Scream agrees. “It could be an advantage when you are introducing something new but you have to be careful not to simply screen a constant barrage of ads – that could be off-putting,” she believes.

A similar retail environment TV advertising scheme is being tested in Safeway supermarkets in north London by Retail Television Network (RTN) and is planned to roll across the UK next year.

RTN managing director Martin Vernon says sales of advertised brands have increased by up to 380 per cent.

“Television is still the most powerful ad medium. The scheme enables manufacturers to have a conversation with consumers as they are making their brand purchasing decisions,” he points out.

“The point of it all is immediacy. The person sitting at home in the evening watching a brand advertised during the evening news break is an awful long way from the shop,” says Vernon.

But while people go to the supermarket to buy food and households products, the reasons why young people visit pubs and bars are more complex – it isn’t only a place to drink, but also to relax and meet friends.

Whether the prickly youth market will appreciate drinks brands muscling in on their conversations remains to be seen.

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