“Luxury” brand Belvedere Vodka is facing continued backlash this week over an ill-judged advert the company posted on its official Twitter and Facebook pages over the weekend depicting a grinning frat boy holding a struggling girl under the caption “Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly.”
Angry twitter users, feminists and people who don’t like sexual assault used as a punchline quickly pounced on the ad, shaming Belvedere into an almost immediate apology and a donation to America’s Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).
But critics say the “impressively half-assed” apology, as Jill at blog Feministe described it, isn’t enough; moreover, what the ad – and the people who took to Belvedere’s Facebook page to defend it – implies about the Western world’s rape culture is disturbing, said blogger MK Feminist (“Throat punching patriarchy since 2011”). “Rape culture is so deeply embedded and accepted that people can look at an ad like this one and defend it as a joke. How is it funny?? At all? There’s not even a gray area,” she wrote.
Whether or not the ad’s bad press will materially affect Belvedere’s bottom-line remains to be seen: Despite calls to arms from women’s and sexual assault survivors’ advocacy groups, among many others, to boycott the spirit, it doesn’t seem likely enough people will.
“I’m not a big vodka drinker to begin with, but you can bet I won’t be touching Belvedere ever again. In addition to emailing Belvedere, I’ll also be asking my local watering hole to consider removing it from their shelves. If you own / work at / frequent a particular restaurant or bar, perhaps ask them to do the same. And drop Belvedere a note to let them know how you feel about their rapey little campaign,” declared blogger Jill at Feministe.
Moreover, some are wondering whether Belvedere’s “mistake” was actually a mistake at all – and whether the company ascribes to the notion that any press is good press. Suggested Phil Villarreal at blog The Consumerist, “The cynical might wonder whether or not the campaign and apology made up a coordinated effort to draw attention to the brand.” Patrick Cairncross at blog FWD Nation noted that a number of commenters on the company’s Facebook page and on Twitter suggested the same ting, that this was a “PR stunt”, a “calculated risk” designed to make people talk about the brand. One commenter claimed, “This is the trend. Just do ANYTHING then say you’re sorry later.” Said Cairncross, “If this was an intentional ‘leak,’ then Belvedere executives are exchanging high-fives and taking celebratory shots tonight.”
Whatever the motivation, Belvedere certainly isn’t the only company to delve into tasteless jokes to peddle a product. Here are a few:
“If it hasn’t already happened, today can go down in the record books as the day subtlety died,” observed Entertainment Weekly’s Popwatch blog about Burger King’s 2009 ad for a seven-inch cheeseburger that ran in Singapore.
“Sweet balls”? Not to be outdone, US fast-food chain Hardees introduced their ad campaign for “biscuit holes”, in which they asked average people what these things ought to be called. [Ed. note: We have idea what these are meant to be. Donought holes? Cookies? The key to America’s obesity epidemic?]
PMS is so funny! “Got milk?” got old, so in 2011, the California Milk Processor Board and their ad team at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners went with another idea: Milk can cure PMS (or PMT, as the much-maligned hormonal changes a woman can experience around her menstruation, is also known). The new ad campaign, according to Rebecca Cullers at AdWeek, “presents women as more uncontrollably irrational than ever before!”
Boobs make it hard to see your chips, says periperi peddlers Nandos, in this ad that ran in South Africa. They also make you a pain in the ass.