Heineken Light is on the defensive over new ads that use the tagline "sometimes lighter is better," after they were deemed racist by Chance the Rapper.
In a message on Twitter, where he has more than 7 million followers, the artist held up one of the ads as an example of how, in his view, marketers sometimes don't mind getting called racist:
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
The provocative accusation drew a range of responses, with some people siding with him and others calling it a reach. But Heineken quickly realized that it was in some trouble, and sought to get ahead of any backlash with a statement.
"For decades, Heineken has developed diverse marketing that shows there's more that unites us than divides us," Heineken USA stated. "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."
Heineken USA did not immediately respond to a question asking whether the ads would be pulled.
One of the ads, which has been airing on TV for several days, shows a bartender sliding a Heineken Light down a bar to a woman who appears dissatisfied with her glass of wine. The beer passes several dark-skinned bargoers before reaching the woman, who has lighter skin than some of the other patrons. Despite Heineken's best intentions, the juxtaposition of the tagline and casting choices are perplexing, especially in an environment in which other brands have been called out for lacking cultural sensitivity.
Chance the Rapper later clarified that he was not calling for a boycott and that he simply wanted to bring attention to the issue.
Im not saying boucott them or go off im just noticing how often it happens and I think they baiting consumers and tweeters and freelancers and shit. Like I didnt wanna tweet about it so bad 😂😂 but its like how can u not— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) March 26, 2018
Heineken Light posted three versions of the ads to its YouTube page two days ago. All of them seek to position Heineken Light against competing cocktails and wines. The broader strategy follows other beer brands that have gotten more aggressive targeting wine and spirits, which have eaten into beer's market share.