BEIJING: Anheuser-Busch InBev, the brewing giant, is aiming to establish itself as a leader in digital marketing in China, according to a senior executive.

Vivian Leh, Asia-Pacific director of digital marketing, told Campaign Asia-Pacific that that the group's digital adspend in that country had risen tenfold in the past four years.

She observed that television advertising restrictions, such as a ban on shots of people drinking, meant there was "more reason to expend efforts in digital marketing".

She added, however, that the brewer was careful not to engage in "blatant" selling via this medium, but preferred to use digital marketing "as a platform to transmit a brand message or slogans".

As examples of this, she cited Budweiser being "The King of Beers" or Harbin the "coolest beer experience".

AB InBev has a roster of some 30 brands in China but digital marketing focuses on a handful, including, as well as the above two, Sedrin and Stella Artois.

Leh said that spend on Stella Artois was limited as the brewer relied more on word of mouth. And in this regard she noted research showing that 30% of netizens were social media commentators or tweeters, while the rest typically forwarded or retweeted material.

This meant, she argued, that brands "could easily seed original content as a trigger for commentary", more so in China than in other countries.

The different brands have different approaches, with Budweiser, for example, geared more towards social and mobile, while Harbin, with a younger consumer profile, looks to music sponsorship, gamification and sports marketing.

Leh also remarked on the different positioning of a brand like Budweiser in China, where it is regarded as a high-end drink, unlike its mass market positioning in the US.

"Because of this, we can't simply transplant culturally different foreign ads into the Chinese market," she stated.

Data sourced from Campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by Warc staff