AB InBev’s Smart Drinking campaign first uses virtual character

By Wang Jiamei Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/9 14:28:39

Launch of non-alcohol drink builds up new social norms

Jan Craps, zone president and chief executive officer of AB InBev APAC, gives a speech. Photo: Courtesy of AB InBev


AB InBev executives, together with public-sector partners and business partners, jointly announce the start of this year's Smart Drinking campaign. Photo: Courtesy of AB InBev

Harbin Beer's palace-themed creative gift pack Photo: Courtesy of AB InBev

For Wang Liang, deputy chief of the Traffic Police General Brigade under the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, the line between the virtual and physical reality blurred, when he approved the virtual character Hajiang's application to be a volunteer to promote civilized traffic practices on Tuesday. The combination of virtual and physical reality took place at a philanthropic smart drinking gala hosted by world leading brewer AB InBev in Shanghai.

The event marked the start of AB InBev's Smart Drinking campaign for the 12th year, which is a corporate social responsibility program aimed at promoting public awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving.

"It's our 12th year to do Smart Drinking campaign, and you see awareness building and changed social norms," said Jan Craps, zone president and chief executive officer of AB InBev APAC, noting that compared with last year, the numbers of China's alcohol-related accidents and casualties have seen a considerable drop, decreasing up to 20.7 percent and 20.4 percent according to the source from the Ministry of Public Security

"And we've engaged more and more people to do designated driving. On a yearly basis, more than 25 million people declared themselves as designated drivers when going out," said Craps.

AB InBev's Smart Drinking campaign has also received support from public sector partners, including the Traffic Management Bureau under the Ministry of Public Security, the Traffic Police General Brigade under the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, the China Road Traffic Safety Association, and the China Alcoholic Drinks Association.

In recent years, drink-drivers have become younger. Statistics showed that young adults aged from 20 to 40 had the highest drink driving rates. 

In order to enhance "No Drinking and Driving" awareness among young people, AB InBev's 2019 Smart Drinking campaign chose the Harbin Beer brand, a popular brand for young people in China, to send the message to generation Z. To attract the attention of young consumers in an innovative way, the beer brand has co-produced a hip-hop public awareness animation "Never Drink and Drive" by combining the brand's newly-created virtual character Hajiang with the palace culture of the Forbidden City.

"We really want to engage with young consumers because they are the main target of our drinking campaign," said Craps. "Using a virtual idol like Hajiang is a new way of communicating with young people, which is very interactive."

"We have already seen virtual idols start making shows, so we could imagine she could have a big role in our communication of Harbin in the future," he noted.

As for the Beijing Forbidden City Culture Development Co., Craps said that young consumers in China really engage a lot with traditional Chinese culture and members of generation Z are very fond of palace-themed cultural scenes these days, which is why Harbin Beer, a brand popular with young people, and palace-themed culture makes for the perfect collaboration.

In the animation, Hajiang time-travels to the ancient times and becomes a royal driver, but she refuses the emperor's offer of a drink and gives him lessons about how bad drinking embarrassed three Chinese historical figures. The Shanghai Traffic Police has sent one of its role-model officers to co-star in the animation and join Hajiang in preventing the emperor from drinking and driving.

In addition to the release of the public-service animation, Tuesday's event also saw Harbin Beer's launch of its first non-alcoholic beer, which is also AB InBev's first product-based breakthrough in 12 years of the Smart Drinking campaign. The non-alcoholic beer is brewed through a unique process of precision dealcoholization, which reduces the alcohol content as much as possible while still retaining the flavor substances and rich tastes of traditional beer, accompanied with a stronger wheat fragrance. With the launch, Harbin Beer hopes to provide young consumers with a more sensible and smarter drinking choice and help them repress the impulse to drink and drive.

According to Craps, AB InBev aims to have non-alcohol offerings account for at least 20 percent of all its sales by 2025, which means that in the future it may bring even more beverage choices to consumers with different tastes and different beer products.

"It is important to offer a choice so we can tell people you need to do smart drinking," said Craps.

The non-alcoholic beer is also an important time-traveling property in the promotional animation.

But the gala and animation campaign are just part of AB InBev's efforts to promote civilized traffic practices. The brewer has also co-developed a palace-themed traffic safety education magic box under the guidance of the Traffic Management Bureau under the Ministry of Public Security for the "Traffic Safety Education and Promotion Program," with the vision of helping children and teenagers quickly learn traffic safety knowledge in an entertaining way.

At the same time, Harbin Beer has also launched a palace-themed creative gift pack that includes some customized cultural products reminding people not to drink and drive.

In addition, AB InBev has partnered with China Guangfa Bank to roll out campus experiential, which enables the brewer to target more than 20 universities. Meanwhile, Harbin Beer will work with Dida Chuxing to jointly issue taxi-riding coupons that can be used in more than 100 cities.

"We will cooperate with partners in 100 different cities and more than 20 universities to talk and engage with young consumers, that is, young adults reaching legal drinking age, to relay our message of smart drinking," said Craps.

"We have more than 18,000 Chinese employees here. Everybody needs to go out in the street bringing our ideas to young adult consumers," he added.

Also on Tuesday, more than 10,000 AB InBev employees in China went to restaurants to call on consumers to observe smart drinking.


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