Bud Light Tackles Gender Pay Equality in New Ad

Spot Follows Brand's Gay Marriage Ad

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Fresh off a gay marriage-themed ad, Bud Light is using its marketing budget to spotlight another progressive issue: Equal pay for women.

In a TV spot debuting today, Seth Rogen says "women don't get paid as much as men and that is wrong." Amy Schumer, who is co-starring with him in an ongoing campaign, then chimes in: "And we have to pay more for the same stuff," like cars and drycleaning. The kicker: "Bud Light costs the same no matter if you are a dude or a lady," she says.

The ad is a continuation of the politically themed "Bud Light Party" campaign by Wieden & Kennedy New York that broke during the Super Bowl and which seeks to inject the brew into topical issues. The equal pay spot will run nationally. On Monday it will run during 16 TV shows, including on ABC's "The Bachelorette," according to a Bud Light representative.

Anheuser-Busch InBev used a more tactical buy for the gay marriage ad. The spot debuted on June 1 on TV in California and New York. It got a social media boost from Ellen DeGeneres via a paid integration. The ad described gay weddings as "just like any wedding," showing a wedding between two men.

The Bud Light Party campaign has portrayed a fake political effort in which Ms. Rogen and Ms. Schumer rally drinkers to join the party. Ads are meant to suggest fun and inclusion, while touching on some hot-button issues.

For the equal pay spot, Bud Light plans to donate $1 to women's organization Catalyst each time viewers use the hashtag #CheersToEqualPay on social media. The total donation is capped at $150,000 for the program, which runs through the end of June.

"The Bud Light Party is about bringing people together and sparking national conversations around timely topics. In our newest spot, Seth and Amy have a colorful banter surrounding the matter of equal pay -- which the Bud Light Party proudly supports," Bud Light VP Alex Lambrecht said in a statement.

But the campaign has drawn mixed reviews and Bud Light sales remain in negative territory. Brand sales dropped by 4.8% in the three months ending in May, according to a recent report by Sanford C. Bernstein citing Nielsen figures.

Anheuser-Busch InBev distributors have given the Bud Light Party campaign a "lukewarm response overall," although the gay marriage ad "certainly got a lot of positive press," said Benj Steinman, president of trade publication Beer Marketer's Insights.

"Some distributors have voiced concern about alienating the core Bud Light drinker with the ad," Harry Schuhmacher, editor and publisher of Beer Business Daily, said in a recent newsletter, referring to the gay marriage ad. "I don't believe there's too much danger in that," he added.

"Most young people have no problem with gay marriage," he said, and might be "blasé about the ad, thinking, 'Wow, welcome to 2012.' "

Equal pay for women has been the subject of real political ads, including a super Pac supporting Hillary Clinton.

Bud Light is not the first consumer brand to tackle the issue. Wieden & Kennedy was behind a recent ad for Secret deodorant that takes on the wage gap in a spot that features a woman preparing to ask her boss for a raise.

Bud Light, of course, has more male consumers than Secret. But brewers -- which had long been associated with frat boy humor -- have made a concerted effort in recent months to create gender-neutral spots that portray women on equal footing. MillerCoors, for instance, runs an internal program called "Project Luna" whose goals include purging sexism from ads. Plans also call for ending bar programs that use barely clothed women to pitch its brands.

The Bud Light spot includes a couple references to women paying more for cars. Evidence is mixed on that issue, however. In a recent story about items women pay more for, MarketWatch cited a 2001 study in the American Economic Review that found car dealers made better offers to white men than to white women.

But NBC's "Today" show in 2015 tested the theory by going behind the scenes with a man and woman shopping for cars -- and actually found that the man was given worse deal offers. In 2015 Automotive News reported on a Swapalease.com analysis of about 2,500 consumers that revelead "women often have lower monthly lease payments than men on similar vehicles."

A-B InBev's gender equality ad comes seven years after its former top public relations executive, Francine Katz, filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the company. She alleged that she was paid less than her male counterparts. She lost the case when a jury sided with the company in a 2014 decision. Ms. Katz resigned from the company in 2008. Her allegations covered a period in which the brewer was run by a different leadership regime. The current version of the company was established in 2008 after the acquisition of St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch by Belgium-based InBev.

In a statement to Ad Age last week the brewer said: "Diversity and inclusion are part of our DNA as a brand, and as a company. Our position on equal pay has been very consistent over the years. Anheuser-Busch does not condone discrimination of any kind. We believe diverse perspectives are good for our business. Anheuser-Busch has always been and will always be committed to treating our employees fairly. We have a fair, rigorous and gender-blind compensation process, which involves outside independent compensation experts."

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