Over the past year, more than a few companies have faced backlash for advertisements deemed racist, sexist, and even homophobic. Heineken is the most recent company in the midst of an advertising controversy, which came to light when one very famous musician called them out via Twitter.
Chance the Rapper, aka the man who’s changing the world one step at a time, made headlines this week when he criticized Heineken for an advertisement that was “purposefully putting out noticeably racist ads so they can get more views.” The ad’s questionable tagline was “Sometimes lighter is better.”
I think some companies are purposely putting out noticably racist ads so they can get more views. And that shit racist/bogus so I guess I shouldn’t help by posting about it. But 😂 I gotta just say tho. The “sometimes lighter is better” Hienekin commercial is terribly racist omg
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) March 26, 2018
Before you say Chance is reaching (because yes, we know that Heineken is light beer and that it’s totally possible it’s not talking about skin color), you might want to actually watch the ad. In the 30-second clip, a bartender slides a Heineken across the bar past three black people to a lighter skinned woman who’s surrounded by white men.
Look, I understand we shouldn’t be twisting messages and trying to find racist messages where they don’t exist, but the ad isn’t exactly subtle about it, especially when the ad features so many people of color (which is pretty unusual for beer advertisements, honestly). Let’s just say that people on Twitter definitely aren’t cool with it.
Wow. I can’t believe all the replies claiming that you are reaching with this! It’s like blatant “subtle” subliminal racism. The beer passes 3 Black people in a row & heads straight to the light complexioned Latina, w/ 3 white guys in the background as the slogan comes up. HELLO
— Cecilia Martin (@CcPrincess20) March 26, 2018
Just saw this ad and immediately recognized the racialized message without having seen any tweets about it previously. I do not think this was a coincidental mistake. It comes across as very intentional. @Heineken NO!
— shannonbieger (@shannonbieger) March 26, 2018
How does this go past the PR people.
🤔 I think we will have a strong response from the closet racist demographic with this one, Chad. Good work with keeping us close enough for deniability, but just enough to reach out strong to that demographic. pic.twitter.com/DPZAfjV3rl
— Derick Waggoner (@ComeHereShadow) March 26, 2018
Heineken has since removed the ad, and their spokesperson reached out to NBC News with 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.”
Whether or not Heineken was using racism to get people to talk about their product, it still seems odd that this ad was able to make it past the testing phase, especially during a time when company advertisements are being put under a microscope and being held accountable for political correctness. Just ask Dove or Pepsi — how you put out your message matters, even if people are just reading between the lines. And if you’re purposefully straddling that line in hopes that people will start talking about your product, well, that’s an all time marketing low.