Heineken stands by ad despite claims it patronises women

Heineken is standing by an ad that suggests women prefer men who don’t drink after some viewers hit back at what they claimed is a misguided attempt to promote responsible drinking.

Some of those complainants have made it clear what they think of the ad on social media, pointing out that it fails to acknowledge that females can drink more than men in the first place. Launched last week, the 'Moderate Drinkers Wanted' campaign targets females in the hope that simply by being a woman they will be able to curb men from downing too many Heinekens.

Speaking to The Drum the brewer’s communications manager Agnieszka Gorecki, said that the ad, which uses Bonnie Tyler’s ‘I need a hero’ as its soundtrack, wasn’t intended to be patronising to women, and instead aims to use them as ambassadors or influencers.

“I would say that is not our attention, this campaign is to empower women,” she continued.

“We show them as strong powerful people in the TVC and we ask them to reach out to men…Our real target is males. We were looking for great ambassadors and decided to use women as we believe they can help influence men to drink in moderation because men look up to women: girlfriends or wives… women value this moderation behaviour on a night out and we believe that they don’t engage with men who don’t drink in moderation.”

Creatives from the advertising industry beg to differ; Laura Muse, creative at Creature, told The Drum that while “a beer brand standing up for not getting blotto, in a non-serious way, is very brave” the execution was actually “pretty insulting” to men.

"How refreshing is that women as the lead protagonists in a beer ad?" Muse continued. "I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. Shall I finally burn my bra, I thought? But moments from my chest shackles going up in flames, I realised that actually these impossibly gorgeous ladies are all singing about men. Turns out it’s not really about us women, after all. These beautiful females, incapable of ever over-indulging in the stupid juice themselves, are a sexy carrot being dangled for the world’s menfolk. Which if you really think about it, is actually pretty insulting to poor old modern man."

Anna Carpen, creative director, 18 Feet & Rising, added that if, as a global brand, you want to use your power to do something prosocial, you need to think the idea through properly, which is something she feels Heineken did not do.

“This big budget spot wants us to believe Heineken are doing good. In reality it’s stumbled and pulled the wrong lever. ‘Well Bob, we’re promoting responsible drinking so let’s not worry about what women think. And leave out any ugly girls too ok?’”

‘Moderate Drinkers Wanted’ is the third responsible drinking campaign from Heineken since 2010 as it looks to address the global problem of people consuming too much alcohol and binge drinking on a night out. According to Spiros Malandrakas, an analyst at Euromonitor, brands such as Heineken are creating these campaigns in the wake of tighter calls from Governments to reduce the problem.

“In the west and even more so in Eastern Europe and in Indonesia there has been a shift from the number of governments and organisations pushing more and more towards the direction of strict regulation when it comes to alcoholic drinks,” he said.

“So essentially proving that they [brands] can do that themselves without an external force forcing them to do that – essentially being self-regulated – and promoting this moderation on their own will allow them to escape the clutches of governments and health regulators pushing for much stricter legislation.”

The ad is the latest indication that brewers are failing to understand women despite their attempts to demonstrate that they’re important for future growth. Molson Coors launched a beer specifically for women in 2011 only to axe it a year later, while Carlsberg was forced to make a similar move when it withdrew its Eve brand shortly after it trialled the fruit-based alcohol drinks.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.