Belvedere vodka ran into a storm of criticism after an ad was posted on Facebook and Twitter on Friday. The ad showed a young man smiling as he grabs a woman from behind. The woman has a frightened look on her face and appears to be trying to get away. The text of the ad read: “Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly.” (I will not show a copy of the ad but you can find it here.
The obvious stupidity of this ad is only the beginning of this tale. Why would an advertiser want to associate their brand with an image showing sexual assault? Especially, an alcohol product. What were they thinking?
The question becomes, who authorized the ad and who decided it should appear on Facebook and Twitter?
The agency of record is Arnell, and their CEO told Ad Age, “We are their agency…but we did not do that ad.” I firmly believe that Arnell did not produce the ad, which raises another question; you have an agency of record and you go around them and produce, what, a rogue ad? An insane rogue ad?
So, our eyes turn toward Belvedere management for an explanation. Right after the s**t storm of protest, the ad was pulled from both social media sites and this lame explanation/apology was issued by the company.
“We sincerely apologize to any of our fans who were offended by our recent post and related comments. As always, we continue to be an advocate of safe and responsible drinking.”
That ridiculous comment got people even angrier and made things worse, because many felt it didn’t address what they believed was the reference to rape.
The company later released another apology.
From the Daily News:
“The post is absolutely inconsistent with our values and beliefs and in addition to removing the offensive post we are committed to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again,” Jason Lundy, the company’s senior vice president of global marketing, wrote on its Facebook page.
The company’s president, Charles Gibbs, added later that they were making a donation to an American anti-sexual violence organization, RAINN.
“It should never have happened. I am currently investigating the matter to determine how this happened and to be sure it never does so again,” Gibbs wrote. “The content is contrary to our values and we deeply regret this lapse.”
I’m left with a number of questions and partial answers.
Who authorized the production and running of the ad? Was it you, Mr. Lundy? If not, does Belvedere often run ads you do not authorize? I suspect you thought it was clever. Or, your marketing department is out of control.
Mr. Gibbs, you are investigating how this happened? You’re joking, right? Although it’s nice of you to make a donation to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), had you ever heard of it before the PR people told you to buy your way out of a jam?
I may never get answers to these questions but I’m beginning to understand why a great brand like Belvedere isn’t doing better in the marketplace.