Heineken has taken down and “apologized” for an ad showcasing its low-calorie beer after a public backlash accusing the spot of being racist.
The ad, which was taken down from the company’s YouTube page but can still be viewed below, shows a light-skinned bartender sliding a bottle of low-calorie beer to an attractive, fair-skinned woman across a lively patio party. But to get there, the bottle slides conspicuously past three black partygoers before landing in front of the fair-skinned model.
The words “Sometimes, lighter is better” then pop up.
While the lightness in question obviously refers to the light beer, the optics of the commercial, and how they match up to the company’s slogan, are equally perceptible and uncomfortable.
Chance the Rapper offered perhaps the most visible (and on-point) criticism of the ad, posting on his Twitter account Sunday night:
“I think some companies are purposely putting out noticably [sic] racist ads so they can get more views. And that shit racist/bogus so I guess I shouldn’t help by posting about it,” Chance wrote, alluding to H&M, Dove and other large brands that have come under fire for controversial ads.
“But I gotta just say tho. The ‘sometimes lighter is better’ Hienekin [sic] commercial is terribly racist,” Chance continued.
As USA Today reports, Heineken removed the commercial from TV and online posts and issued a lightweight apology.
“For decades, Heineken has developed diverse marketing that shows there’s more that unites us than divides us,” a Heineken spokesperson told BBC News, which was among the first to report on the commercial, in a statement. “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.”
Considering that Heineken is one of the world’s most dominant and well-known brands, and considering how labor- and people-intensive making a single advertisement is, it’s hard to conceive how no one caught the ad’s racial undertones.
Still, the beer company followed a tried-and-true path:
- Make a tone-deaf ad.
- Watch the public backlash.
- Take down the ad.
- Kind of apologize and say you’re listening to your customers.
- Wait for another company to repeat the same mistake.