A few days ago, the BRAHMA beer brand launched an advertising spot to promote its new product “BRAHMA LIME”. The commercial was removed from the air almost immediately due to the negative response it received, especially in social media.
The commercial begins with a voiceover that says “BEER. WE ALL LIKE IT. BUT IT TASTES BITTER TO YOU, AND YOU FEEL LEFT OUTSIDE, DRINKING COLORFUL COCKTAILS”. Meanwhile, a woman is shown in a swimsuit sipping a fruit drink through a straw, while looking sideways and suspiciously at a group of young people who seem amused, enjoying their cans of Brahma beer. The voiceover continues “DO NOT DESPAIR. THIS SUMMER BRINGS YOU BRAHMA LIME. IT’S BRAHMA WITH A TOUCH OF LIME. LESS BITTER”, while the group of young people escort the woman to the sea, where a kind of spiritual guide awaits her, and submerges her in the water while forcing her to drink beer from the can emulating a kind of “baptism”. Meanwhile, the voiceover exclaims "BE STRONG MY QUEEN, IT'S TIME FOR YOU TO HAVE YOUR BEER BAPTISM".
The advertising, which can still be found on YouTube under search parameters such as “BRAHMA LIME - CONTROVERSIAL ADVERTISING DUE TO SEXISM” and whose link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34drfCqMCvk , was immediately condemned by the consumer in social media. Among other things, it was called sexist, discriminating, and stereotyping.
From Women who were not cover girls, a project that shows stereotypes in the media, they questioned the ad. "The old resource of making us feel silly girls in order to sell us things" and the falsehood of the universality of some tastes used "to force us to fit in," they reflect on their Facebook page. "... In order to 'convince you' that 'you should like what everyone else likes', they force you, push you and command you to go through the rite of initiation to 'taste' what 'once you taste it, you’ll like it.' “What does this commercial sound like?", asks the blog.
The truth is that the company Cervecería y Malteria Quilmes S.A. of the ABInBev group not only removed the advertising spot from the air almost immediately but also issued an apology statement, stating that "Regarding our commercial of Brahma Lime, from Brahma we apologize. Along the road of changing old models, there are successes and fails. And this was a fail. "
The ad is indeed discriminatory, based on a stereotype and under the premise that women do not like beer because it is bitter and that only women -not men- like fruit cocktails. Even though in advertising, stereotypes are used as a tool to deliver the message easier to a specific target, through the characterization and allocation of roles of the characters involved in the advertising story, as a general rule, advertising should not contain expressions or representations that encourage any form of discrimination, whether in the form of denigration, inferiority, minimization or ridicule, as is the case here.
The truth is that the commercial is discriminatory and violates Section 1101, paragraph c), of the National Civil and Commercial Code, which establishes the prohibition of all advertising that is discriminatory. It also infringes Section 81, paragraph i), of Law 26,552, which rules that advertising should not imply gender discrimination or impair human dignity. Likewise, it violates the Code of Ethics of CONARP - Advertising Self-regulatory Organization-, which in its Section 5, paragraph 6), says “advertising must not contain visual or auditory expressions or representations, or improper allusions that:… encourage any form of discrimination."
To conclude, I believe that the Brahma Lime’s failed ad teaches several lessons to legal marketing and marketing professionals, including:
- It is surprising that in a commercial of a multinational company, which follows a process of approval of the material and that goes under the revision of marketing and legal teams, no one noticed its discriminatory nature or that, at least, nobody felt that message was “off key”. I think that it is important to form work teams where diversity is promoted, making it less likely for advertisers to make this kind of mistakes.
-Today, consumers and society in general exert a more strict, immediate and effective control over social media than the authorities themselves (at least in Argentina). In this case, neither the self-regulatory body nor the Discrimination Observatory of the INADI (National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism), or any other national authority, or the competitors themselves noticed the discriminatory nature of the commercial and did nothing about it. Or at least, if they did, they could not react as quickly as some groups defending women rights or the consumer in general. Let's not forget that it was the consumer - and not the authority – who got the advertising spot removed from the air just 24 hours after its launch.
-This type of mistakes not only causes a clear damage to the brand and the advertiser, but also helps the competitor to capitalize on this error. This is what happened in the case under analysis. A few days ago, Heineken launched an advertisement that shows different scenes in which the waiter mistakenly hands beers to men and cocktails to women and among them they make the changes to get the correct drink. At the end of the commercial, the legend "MEN ALSO DRINK COCKTAILS" is shown. This advertisement can be accessed through the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK0prD9c6PI. That is to say, not only does the advertiser lose but it also helps the competition to capitalize on the error.
Finally, legal marketing professionals must have a criterion of whole analysis of the advertising pieces that takes into account the prevailing social sensitivity and is in tune with the times. Staying tied to the mere cold application of legal regulations is not a viable option to avoid this kind of mistakes.
Today, consumers and society in general exert a more strict, immediate and effective control over social media than the authorities themselves