Southern Comfort Dumps Cable For Hulu, Facebook

5849_113945984154_108170819154_3073082_985234_nSouthern Comfort is taking its $8 million marketing spend online to reach its target market of 21- to 29-year-olds. Last year, the brand spent $6 million on late-night cable TV and another $1.5 million on magazines. All of that is going away. Now, SoCo plans to spend $10 million online, where the money reaches far more prospective consumers than the same spend offline. The brand plans to buy ads for streaming TV episodes on Hulu and on the web sites of NBC, CBS, Fox and FX; it will also pick up ads on Facebook, Playboy, Thrillist and, among a number of others.

But will SoCo be a trialblazer for companies looking to break out from the pack? Earlier this month, FedEx¬†launched a Web-video campaign featuring 3-minute “infotainment” ad-cum-sketch comedy skits on YouTube and FedEx’s web site. The vids are directed by former “SNL” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” writer Bob Odenkirk, and feature actor Fred Willard touting FedEx products in a faux-infomercial environment infused with absurd humor — sounds perfect for YouTube, but it remains to be seen if some YouTube ads will help the shipping company reach its target audience. Regardless, with ads around digital video, particularly on sites like Hulu, advertisers get a consumer’s attention all to themselves with pre-roll advertising before full-length TV episodes, for example. I suspect that the SoCo campaign will be closely watched by other spirits advertisers and any company looking to reach a younger audience than can be reliably delivered elsewhere.

Because spirits advertising is forbidden from prime-time television, SoCo is having a tough time reaching its target audience. Plus, the folks the company wants to sell to are spending more of their time online. A Forrester Research survey released last week reported that Generation Y (ages 18 to 29), spends the most time online of any age group — more than 19 hours per week. Plus, Internet use across the board is exploding, up more than 115 percent over the past five years. During the same period, time spent reading magazines dropped 6 percent. It seems the best place to reach a younger audience is online, especially for an alcohol brand.

Lena DerOhannessian, SoCo’s U.S. marketing director, told AdAge, “As we’ve focused more on 21 to 29, TV becomes less and less effective at reaching that audience.” Because spirits advertising is compressed into a very short time slot, SoCo found that it was ending up with multiple alcohol ads within one show, or even one “pod” or commercial break. “That was just a game we didn’t want to keep playing.”

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