Just when I thought yet another tone-deaf advertising agency creative or in-house marketing executive couldn’t possibly produce yet another insensitive, racially-charged TV spot, along comes Heineken to prove me wrong.
If you haven’t seen “Lighter is better” and, odds are you won’t since Heineken yanked it off the air almost immediately, take a gander: Heineken pulls ‘Sometimes lighter is better’ ad after racism claims
Now, take a guess who was morally outraged by the commercial? Bingo! People of color.
Why? Well, because the white bartender in the spot takes careful aim and hurtles a Heineken bottle of beer underneath, around and past bar patrons of color before it reaches its final destination: the hand of an attractive light skinned woman.
These are the types of unexplainable and egregious gaffes that, in 30 seconds, can undo years of community goodwill, corporate social responsibility AND the morale of an entire workforce. Then of course, there will be boycotts from patrons of liquor stores and food markets who will no longer buy Heineken beer at all.
God knows what the eventual impact from a financial and reputational standpoint will be, but I’m betting the internal marketing team was either put on 30-days notice or asked to leave the building faster than a speeding bottle of Heineken.
As far as the ad agency creatives, all I can say is, “Let’s lift a bottle of beer (other than Heineken) in their memory.” The next gig for the entire team will probably be washing dishes in the bar where the commercial was filmed.
Btw, on a related note, I will be joined by JP Laqueur of Brand Foundations on a PRSA webinar at 3pm today to discuss the new types of societal crises facing corporate America (as well as self-inflicted wounds such as Heineken’s).
Here’s the link to today’s webinar: http://apps.prsa.org/Learning/Calendar/display/9155/Reputation_Management_in_a_Polarized_Age#.WrpLY4jwaUn
That’s pretty blatant in its stupidity! Nothing ruins a brand faster than “creatives” whose mentality never left the frat house.
Here is something more subtle that I don’t know how to respond to: the Brooklyn Museum hired a white woman to be curator of its African Art collection. That would not have been worthy of notice 50 or even 20 years ago, but the Twittersphere is full of comments like “whitewash,” “cultural insensitivity” and “institutional racism.”
So is the backlash legitimate, or have we reached Peak Outrage? Are middle-aged honkies like me not qualified to comment, or is it all in the eye of the beholder?