After Backlash, A-B Says Bud Light Label ‘Missed The Mark’

By Lisa Brown
St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Anheuser-Busch did it again.

For the second time in two months, the brewer hit a sour note with a Bud Light promotion that some critics said appeared to condone sexual assault.

A-B issued an apology Tuesday afternoon, but not until after enduring widespread and withering criticism across social media.

The country’s best-selling beer, Bud Light, announced in December its plans to add 140 different messages on its labels tied to the brand’s “The Perfect Beer for Whatever Happens” ad campaign.

One of those messages under fire is a Bud Light label that says: “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night. #upforwhatever.”

Social media lit up this week, with people claiming that the use of the word “no” in this context promotes sexual assaults.
On Twitter, @Doylethegreat wrote: “Hey @budlight, this label has some pretty unsavory implications. Probably shouldn’t print these anymore.”

Another person, @JohnOverholt, tweeted a picture of the label and said: “The official beer of rape culture.”

Even U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., joined the debate, tweeting via her account, @NitaLowey, that the Bud Light ad campaign “should promote responsible — not reckless — drinking.”

A-B, which has its U.S. headquarters based in St. Louis, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon apologizing for the label.

“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,” Bud Light vice president Alexander Lambrecht said in the emailed statement.

“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.”

The brewer said it has discontinued production of the label at issue.

Others on social media defended A-B. Amid the outpouring of criticism, @ColinCBurns tweeted: “To be fair, Bud Light wasn’t actually endorsing rape. It’s just an incredibly badly worded slogan.”

But Jennifer Pozner, executive director of the Brooklyn-based advocacy group Women In Media & News, said the Bud Light message is damaging.

“The idea that any alcohol company … was this clueless about the role alcohol plays in a large number of sexual assaults is unthinkable in 2015,” Pozner said.

“It’s not a gray area, especially when you are in an industry that is endlessly criticized for the role your product plays in assaults. I think what they’re trying to do is position Bud Light as a beer for bad boys.”

It’s not the only time the campaign has landed Bud Light in hot water.

Last month, A-B issued an apology after it tweeted: “On #StPatricksDay, you can pinch people who don’t wear green. You can also pinch people who aren’t #UpForWhatever,” with a photo of five young women below the message.

Lara Zwarun, an associate professor of communication at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said Bud Light’s #UpForWhatever campaign that debuted in early 2014 should have raised flags at the company that the campaign may be subject to criticism and scrutiny.

The “No” message under fire could also relate to other irresponsible behaviors, such as turning down a designated driver, she added.

“‘UpForWhatever’ is clearly about people doing crazy things and having unusual and fun experiences,” Zwarun said. “For the (removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary) message to be part of that, it’s not surprising that people are getting the wrong impression from it.”

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