ChurpChurp alcohol advertising on Twitter

Twitter / Niki Cheong: [Churp] The Facebook app f ... While waiting for a meeting to start, I fired up Twitter, and I saw an interesting tweet from Niki Cheong promoting the Heineken Facebook application, which apparently allows you to “plant trees, send greeting cards, and gives you tips on how to party!”. Of course, this isn’t something Niki himself posted – it came via a Twitter advertising network, created in Malaysia, called ChurpChurp.

Malaysia is a country that doesn’t appreciate liquor advertising unless its qualified – i.e. you’re non-Muslim, and you’re of age (I’m uncertain if this is actually 18 or 21, but I believe it is the latter). Heineken basically asks for your date of birth on their website, and I blogged previously about Guinness going so far, to ask for your IC number or passport number! Heineken says you must be of legal drinking age

But look, they’ve found a loophole! Heineken Malaysia has 33,239 fans of this writing. Are they all above 21 years of age?

In fact, Niki’s tweet, just goes to their fan page, and under “Celebrate!”, they ask you: “Are you ready to party?” If you say “Yeah!”, it allows you to go to a Bar finder (note: no checking of age, etc.). What is a bar finder? A place to find lists of bars, in various states, that serve Heineken!!! I mean kudos with the application – the list, allows you to select “Klang Valley”, pick a bar, find all the contact details, show it up on a Google Map, and show you a picture of people having a good time. Kudos to Heineken for embracing social media and creating a Facebook application, and having so many fans on Facebook!

So, it seems that liquor advertising has found loopholes: you do it online, and you get other people to write about them. You do it on Facebook. You might do it on Friendster soon (considering MOL now owns it). You get bloggers to write about it. You get it out on Twitter (are all of Niki’s followers above 21?). Completely brilliant. Twitter’s terms of service doesn’t state anything about this, but it does mention “You may use the Services only in compliance with these Terms and all applicable local, state, national, and international laws, rules and regulations.” Funnily enough, I don’t think rules that apply to other forms of media, apply online at the moment.

BTW, I’m not picking on Niki Cheong (in fact, I just spoke with him before posting this – I have his blessings), or any of the other Churp’ers. I’m just making an observation on how alcohol companies are “going 2.0”, figuring out how to circumvent Malaysian requirements, by going completely online, by targeting social networks, et al.

Interested to hear your thoughts!


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  2. cameranoob says:

    Did the alcohol companies really discover this? Or, their agencies? Or, my guess, someone said “let's create a Facebook app” then everything else came in to play from research of the loophole to exploiting it. ;)

    But definitely a well observed point there, Colin.

  3. blogjunkie says:

    Actually I think it's good that ad agencies are starting to innovate and try new things. Sure it's a loophole but if it wasn't for the law, they'd probably be churning out cookie cutter print & TV ads instead of coming up with different advertising methods.

    With alcohol as the topic, it's also a lot more controversial. I think most people wouldn't have any problem if it was a 'safe' product like soft drinks or books. Therefore alcohol & tobacco industry players need to tread really carefully so that they don't set off the authorities on a knee-jerk “we must censor the internet” campaign.