by Linda C. Gonzalez
Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Bud Light beer, offered an apology recently in response to
complaints that its “Up For Whatever” advertising campaign condoned date rape by telling
consumers they ought to stop using the word “no.”
The ad campaign included a label on some bottles that featured the slogan, “The perfect beer
for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.” The tagline drew outrage after photos of
the label went viral on social media. Critics charged that, blind to the problem of sexual assault
on U.S. college campuses, the beer maker was implicitly encouraging people to get intoxicated
to the point where they are unable to give consent to sex.
Anheuser-Busch, for its part, said that it would immediately cease production of the labels. The
company added that the two-year-old “Up for Whatever” campaign was meant for “consumers
to engage with our brand in a positive and light-hearted way.”“It’s clear that this particular
message missed the mark, and we regret it,” Bud Light vice president Alexander Lambrecht
said in a release. “We would never condone disrespectful or irresponsible behavior.
Bud Light, however, came under fire for the same ad campaign, after it sent a tweet directed at
St. Patricks’ Day revelers urging them to "pinch people who aren’t #UpForWhatever." When
critics complained that the tweet called for touching people without their consent, the company
deleted it, but said it was meant to be “playful.”
The Bud Light controversy is the latest in several alcohol-related ad campaigns that have
depicted women in questionable light. In 2012, the vodka maker Belvedere ran an online
advertisement depicting a smiling man with his arms around a woman who looks terrified as she
tries to wriggle herself out of his grasp. The kicker was the ad’s slogan, which, read: “Unlike
some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly.”
After Internet users expressed outrage, the company swiftly pulled the ad, but the actress sued
Belvedere, accusing the company of misappropriating her image, which she said was a screen
grab from her sketch comedy video.
Other ads have fallen flat by using racial stereotypes. In 2004, Labatt U.S.A., the U.S.
distributor of Tecate beer, took down billboards that featured a bottle of the Mexican beer
along with the slogan, “Finally, a cold Latina,” after advocacy groups complained.
Other beer companies have attempted to use humor to imply that a product will help
consumers win the affections of the opposite sex. Molson, a Canadian beer company that later
merged with Coors, drew criticism for its "Making Friends" ads that ran in men’s magazines like
"Maxim" and "Stuff" featuring faux wallet photos of grandparents and pets that men were
supposed to show to women to get them into bed. “Wallet-size proof that you’re a man with a
sensitive side, in case she’s into that,” the slogan read.
Other ads in the Molson campaign featured artificial business cards from yacht sellers and
other luxurious-sounding stores, along with the tagline, “Ladies freak for guys with expensive
hobbies, and now you’ve got some,” according to AdAge.
Michelle Nelson, an advertising professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who
has researched gender targeting in ads, says she wonders whether companies aren’t rushing
to air ads that should be more carefully vetted.
beernexus.com - SPECIAL REPORT
Ads challenged as sexist