Fallout from a controversial label that some say alluded to sexual assault led Anheuser-Busch to pull a slogan this week printed on Bud Light bottles, the second flap in recent months surrounding the company’s new “Up for Whatever” campaign.
The St. Louis company, long known for its ads featuring Clydesdale horses, is trying to target new, younger consumers with the campaign.
The latest controversy focuses on a recent label that says the beer is perfect for “removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.”
That slogan, which came at a time when colleges nationwide are dealing with high-profile sexual assault and binge-drinking issues, triggered an uproar.
Anheuser Busch quickly pulled the label.
“It’s clear that this particular message missed the mark and we regret it,” Vice President Alexander Lambrecht said in a statement. “We would never condone disrespectful or irresponsible behavior.”
His comments did not sit well with everyone.
Lyndsay Kirkham, a writer for Gender Focus, a Canadian-based multi-author feminist blog, wrote that Anheuser-Busch can churn out a “deluge of ‘but you’re misunderstanding our intention’ press releases, but there is no room to beg off with ignorance.”
“One need only begin to Google ‘how to get a girl drunk …’ to spy the swaths of internet cluttered with DIY rape drinks and instructions on how to use alcohol to reduce a woman’s capacity to consent. They knew. They know. This campaign is a deliberate pandering to the rape culture that too often includes the abuse of alcohol and drugs,” she wrote in a blog post.
In March, Anheuser-Busch received backlash over a Twitter post that appeared to encourage sexual harassment.
“On #StPatricksDay, you can pinch people who don’t wear green. You can also pinch people who aren’t #UpForWhatever,” the tweet said. The company subsequently deleted the post.
Edward E. Ackerley, a marketing professor at the University of Arizona, said the current strategy seems fine as it targets a younger audience, although in the most recent case, the messaging was clearly flawed.
“The entire campaign of ‘Up for Whatever’ goes very well with the target market,” said Ackerley, adding that the overall campaign should not end. “The target loves to be spontaneous and do something fun associated with ordering a beer while out with friends. So the message is well defined and strategically sound.”
The new “Up for Whatever” campaign is a tool to grow Anheuser-Busch’s audience, Ackerley said.
But Vincent Cicchirillo, assistant advertising professor at the University of Texas, said the entire campaign appears to have taken “a darker connotation on its own” with the recent missteps. Cicchirillo said the campaign should be changed because of too much negative publicity.
“Clearly, a disconnect with the pulse of society and the higher ups,” said Cicchirillo.
6:31 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Edward E. Ackerley and Vincent Cicchirillo and with background information.
10:26 a.m.: This article was updated with additional information.
The first version of this article was published at 8:32 a.m.