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Budweiser Gets It Wrong, Again

Emily Mae Czachor |
May 4, 2015 | 11:00 a.m. PDT

Senior Culture Editor

(Creative Commons/Google Images)
(Creative Commons/Google Images)
This advertisement brought to you by Budweiser, serving you up an ice cold round of rape culture since 1876.

Last week, the American couch potato’s beloved beer vendor came under fire for its latest promotional mishap: a label plastered across Bud Light bottles that so eloquently reads “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.” The tagline is the Budweiser marketing team’s latest installment to its ongoing #UpForWhatever campaign – the proverbial cherry on top of the product’s already highly questionable quality.

In light of lawsuits accusing Budweiser’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, of watering down its beverages and decreasing the product’s alcohol content by as much as 8 percent (anyone who’s had a sip of a Bud Light probably guessed this long before it became a class-action suit), the company has been making creative attempts to attract consumers.

And since those marketing moguls are well aware that they’ve already hooked, lined and sunk the college frat boy and middle-aged-men-watching-football demographics, who did they decide to shift their marketing toward? Women.

Which seemed like a half-decent plan, considering Bud Light’s propaganda repertoire thus far consisted mostly of other tone deaf allusions to sexual harassment like “On St. Patrick’s Day, you can pinch people who don’t wear green. You can also pinch people who aren’t #UpForWhatever.” They started with beer in an assortment of fruit flavors, which was a marketing ploy that was--shockingly--still tinged with sexism.

READ MORE: The Price Of Sex At USC

But the most recent ad made the leap from laughably ignorant to gravely problematic, and social media exploded with backlash against the company for its blind perpetuation of rape culture and its complete lack of acknowledgment of consent and its importance. Shortly after the Internet outcry, VP of Anheuser-Busch Alexander Lambrecht issued a lukewarm “oops” statement, in which he admitted, “It is clear that this message missed the mark, and we regret it. We would never condone disrespectful or irresponsible behavior.”

But the question remains: If these marketing executives, if the vice president of this company didn’t automatically think that an ad advising consumers to “remove ‘no’ from their vocabulary” was exclusively disrespectful or irresponsible, what exactly did they think its implications were? The ad jokingly suggests that drinking a beer should eliminate all forms of verbal consent – that’s not reading between the lines, it’s explicitly stated. It’s the essence of the advertisement.

In the current culture of rampant and highly publicized sexual assaults and rapes on college campuses worldwide, it is nearly impossible (and if it is possible, then extremely alarming) to believe that Budweiser “overlooked” its assault-saturated advertisement. Or maybe the entire staff doesn’t watch the news? Or own a smartphone?

Let’s say these marketing executives don’t know that, according to a July 2013 report by the National Institute on Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism, over 97,000 cases of sexual assault on college campuses take place at parties where party-goers are consuming alcohol. Nobody at Budweiser heard about Emma Sulkowitz at Columbia University? Nobody read an article about the Rolling Stone blunder that chronicled a gang rape at UVA?

Bud Light, while clearly not slick with its turn of phrase, knows its audience. College fraternity houses, and even just young people in general, drink beer. And statistics show that one in four college women have survived either rape or attempted rape at one point in their lifetime. So it isn’t simply “irresponsible” or “disrespectful” behavior that Bud Light bottles are condoning, it’s dangerous. It trivializes an impossibly painful circumstance that has affected so many young people.

So, perhaps what we can definitively take away from this is that Budweiser’s marketing team could truly benefit from hiring a woman or two, or at least one person with a functioning frontal lobe.

Reach Senior Culture Editor Emily Mae Czachor here.



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