Anheuser-Busch InBev is dealing with a torrent of negative publicity over a Bud Light marketing message scrolled on some bottles that some critics say can be interpreted as contributing to a rape culture.
The message states that Bud Light is the "The perfect beer for removing 'no' from your vocabulary for the night." The message is one of more than 140 different sayings printed on bottles as part of the brand's "Up For Whatever" campaign, which is by BBDO, New York and is aimed at linking Bud Light with spontaneous fun.
The brewer apologized for the message on Tuesday, issuing this statement from Alexander Lambrecht, the brand's VP: "The Bud Light Up for Whatever campaign, now in its second year, has inspired millions of consumers to engage with our brand in a positive and light-hearted way. In this spirit, we created more than 140 different scroll messages intended to encourage spontaneous fun. It's clear that this message missed the mark, and we regret it. We would never condone disrespectful or irresponsible behavior."
But the damage was already done, as multiple outlets picked up the story -- from The New York Times to USA Today -- contributing to a very bad day for a brand that is trying to win over millennials with a campaign that leans heavy on experiential and digital elements.
The Consumerist was among the first outlets covering the story after picking up on a discussion about it occuring on Reddit. The Consumerist story stated that: "Given the role that alcohol plays in many things that would have been a 'no' without a night of drinking — driving under the influence, sexual assault, vandalism, public urination, random 'woot-woot'-ing as you ping-pong down the sidewalk — it's probably not the best idea for a multinational multibillion-dollar business like Bud Light's parent company AB InBev to publicly acknowledge that its product can lead users down a path to stupid consequences."
The controversy raises questions about the vetting process A-B InBev has in place to monitor the constant stream of marketing content it produces as part of the campaign. "We have an extensive review process and this label should not have made it through," a spokeswoman told Ad Age. "It's regrettable."
When asked about the agency involved in the bottle effort, she stated that "BBDO is the creative agency for this UFW campaign, including all bottle scroll messages." A BBDO spokesman referred a call for comment to A-B InBev.
Earlier in the day a BBDO employee who works in Atlanta took the side of the critics, tweeting, "Oh no. Bud Light's new tagline." The employee later deleted the tweet.