NEW YORK: Brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev is increasingly looking to digital platforms, especially social media, to reach beer drinkers and is often seeing better returns on investment there than from television a leading executive has said.

Lucas Herscovici, vice president of digital marketing, North America, told MediaPost that the company had been able to show that "for every dollar we spent on media on Facebook, we realized a six-dollar return, through beer sales".

He was referring in this instance to a push that had focused on the best-performing posts in terms of engagement rates. "We wanted to prove that there's a correlation between engagement and sales, and that's what we did," he declared.

He outlined how digital enabled the business, whose brands include Budweiser and Stella Artois, to reach beer drinkers based on their attitudinal and behavioural preferences. "We can even reach consumers based on what beers they've enjoyed in the past four weeks," he said.

The next step was to connect with them in real-time through social media based on various factors including their location, what they were talking about, and who they were connected with.

This real-time metrics offered by digital also allowed for rapid adaptation of content based on the conversations consumers were having around it. Herscovici reported "some amazing results". In several cases, he added, "digital has proven to have better returns on investment than TV".

He was emphatic on the need for content to drive sales and brand health. "You could have very entertaining content that people find funny, but if it doesn't affect your brand in any meaningful way, then it's not valuable," he stated.

In addition to internal resources and agencies, the company encouraged third parties to create content. "We sponsor Major League Baseball, the NFL, the FIFA World Cup, and more than 90 professional sports teams, so there are many, many assets we can leverage for content creation," Herscovici observed.

"We understand the reality that our brands are not just what we say they are, but what our fans say they are as well," he added.

Cost is another factor driving the brewer towards digital. Earlier this year Winston Wang, AB InBev's global director of strategic innovation, told an MMA Forum in New York that media inflation of up to 20% for some TV spots had made digital platforms increasingly attractive.

Data sourced from MediaPost; additional content by Warc staff