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Foster's beer shifts ad spending to Web

Australian brewing company goes for Net-only ad strategy with campaign to launch on popular guy site Heavy.

Australian brewing company Foster's will shift its ad spending from television to the Internet, according to a news report.

The company has bought ads on Heavy, a site popular with young adult males, according to a Heavy representative. The ad campaign launches Aug. 16, when Heavy debuts a program called "Massive Mating Game."

Foster's will also create humorous video commercials that it will post on other sites, according to a story in Thursday's edition of The Wall Street Journal.

Gary Stein, director of strategy for Ammo Marketing, said that while the move appears to be a dramatic course change for a beer that built a name in the United States through television commercials, it's a relatively low risk investment.

The license owner of the Foster's brand in this country is SABMiller, one of the world's largest brewers. Some of the company's other brands are Miller Genuine Draft, Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve and Amstel Lager.

Of all SABMiller's brands, Foster's is the best fit for an Internet-only campaign, said Stein. First, the beer is popular but is part of a niche category that includes other nonpremium International beers, such as Corona, said Stein. The TV-ad spending for the beer amounted to only $5 million, the Journal reported.

"You can certainly see SABMiller choosing this brand to experiment with," Stein said. "That $5 million isn't a huge amount of money, but it will probably go a lot further online."

Stein says SABMiller is just the latest advertiser to experiment with online advertising. He cited food manufacturer Unilever's decision two years ago to boost Net ad spending by 300 percent and Visa's move to forgo SuperBowl ads last year and spend some of the savings online.

Stein said it would have been groundbreaking if SABMiller had decided to move all the advertising for Miller Genuine Draft, one of company's best-selling beers, to the Net.

"That would have been a truly brave strategy," Stein said. "But I don't know that that's going to happen anytime soon. It's a cultural thing. They know that Anheuser-Busch is going to be on TV, so Miller has to be there too."