Heineken seemed to be playing with fire in a new beer ad, "Sometimes, Lighter Is Better." The commercial shows a bartender sending a light beer to a light-skinned woman. On its way down the bar, the beer passes darker-skinned people. The promotion was for 99-calorie Heineken Light.
Chance the Rapper is one of many who called the ad racist, and he accused the company of intentionally trying to attract attention.
An AdAge article explains that the ad traveled from Europe last summer, where it received little attention, to the recent release in the U.S. As one agency owner explains, "What sometimes is acceptable in Europe isn't acceptable in the U.S. and I think that a lot of time the failure comes in not really evaluating the impact that it is going to have in a particular region."
Heineken pulled the ad, and spokesman Bjorn Trowery published a statement:
"For decades, Heineken has developed diverse marketing that shows there’s more that unites us than divides us.
"While we feel the ad is referencing our Heineken Light beer—we missed the mark, are taking the feedback to heart and will use this to influence future campaigns."
- Would you call the ad racist? Why or why not?
- Do you think Heineken intentionally created a controversial ad? What evidence do you find either way?
- How is this an issue of authenticity and integrity for the company?