Belvedere Vodka stirred up some serious controversy on Friday afternoon. On its official Twitter page, the brand shared an ad depicting a woman struggling to get out of a man's arms. The copy read: "Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly."
Belvedere vodka's creative agency of record is Omnicom Group's Arnell, which introduced the nickname for the vodka, "Belve." Earlier work carried a similar tagline and message about being smooth and "trusting your instincts," but those ads didn't convey abusive behavior as much have sexual undertones, with men and women blindfolding each other.
You can see that work on Arnell's website.
Arnell is no stranger to controversy, but in an email, Arnell CEO Sara Arnell said "we are their agency" but "we did not do that ad."
Representatives for Belvedere did not return calls by press time to identify the ad's creator, but judging by an apology that was posted to the official Twitter and Facebook accounts for the brand, it is very real: "We apologize to any of our fans who were offended by our recent tweet. We continue to be an advocate of safe and responsible drinking."
Reactions to the ad differed according to the social network.
On Twitter, where the brand has more than 10,000 followers, the response was fast and furious. People called for boycotts of Belvedere and condemned the ad as shameful, misogynistic and a "horrifying emblem of rape culture."
Some complaints appeared On its Facebook page, which has 900,000-plus fans, while many folks also rushed to Belvedere's defense.
Said Diane McLellan: "It's an alcoholic drink and adults know the consequences so make their choices -- not offended in the least. Carry on."
Jennifer Miglionico-Poulsen wrote: "I'm bummed it's removed from your page now. I wanted to share it with my friends. Let the uptight people unlike it and bam all better. Like they really are drinkers anyway."
Eddie G. Gonzalez said: "It's Friday don't worry about it, all those people that were offended will prob be shit-faced by the end of the day lol."
Said Michelle Arlequeeuw Lynch: "How can you worry about your fans being offended, when one of your biggest fans is Chelsea Handler?"
Belvedere's controversial real ad comes on the heels of a fake brand page for clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch that used racist language to describe a pair of shorts. Abercrombie issued a statement denouncing the site, and said it plans to take legal action against its creators.