What sort of responsibility does any advertisement truly bear? Is it merely to move product or must it aspire to a higher standard of conduct? Is an ad obligated to sell and uplift too? Some may, but that’s not a necessity. It’s simply a happy by-product when it does. An ad is supposed to sell things. That’s it. If it does, then it’s a good one no matter what anyone’s opinion of it may be. (except mine – my opinion matters, really, it does) Well, for some reason a new Heineken ad for its massive 5 litre fridge keg has opened a can of worms all on its own.
No less a source of professional ad critique than the famous Bob Garfield, ad man extraordinaire, writing at Ad Age, has labeled this TV commercial as “…perhaps the most sexist beer ad ever made.” Now that’s saying something when you only have to flip on the tube and watch darn near any beer ad currently running on television challenge that notion. How can one simple ad evoke such venom from a seasoned professional? And especially from one who really should get the whole idea behind any ad’s real job.
Let’s take a look.
In the ad, a futuristic techno beat pounds as a robot-woman wearing a louvered mini-dress struts mechanically in from stage left, Marcel Marceau-ing herself into position and then turning front and center. She is all in tune and all with the beat. Her expression is a sort of bemused-happy that never changes. Once stopped, the louvers on her skirt and up the front of the dress slide away to reveal the chilled Heineken Draught Keg residing inside. A couple more robot arms pop out and she proceeds to tap this mobile beverage marvel from within and serve up a frosty glass of Heineken. She then morphs into two additional and similar beer maids who each continue to move and grind to the beat, ostensibly offering beer to all who desire it.
Now according to Garfield and Co. this ad “has reduced half the world to a man-servicing beer tap.” He prefaces this alarming conclusion with examples of so-called “crude, perfect woman jokes” offering them as proof positive of the true intentions at the heart of this ad. In my mind he shows more than a little ease at recalling such offensive jokes in the first place. But just like the comic who complains about racist jokes only to tell a few of them as “good, bad examples” he still gets the laugh and sidesteps the guilt in the telling. Anyway, to suggest Mr. Garfield was a tad frothier than the Heineken beer on tap would not be an understatement.
Personally, I thought it was kind of a cool ad. The idea of a mini-keg is a great one. Every guy likes shiny metal things and the ability to have a real, live keg in his own house everyday is almost too good to be true. By sticking said keg in a robot it makes you stop and stare in a “what the hell is that?” kind of way. As far as the final nail in the complainer’s coffin goes – that it’s an attractive woman – well, that cream filling hides inside the DNA of all beer companies. I think it’s fairly safe to assume that “girls” are a staple in most beer ad campaigns by now.
FACT: Guys drink a lot of beer.
FACT: Guys like girls.
IDEA: Put girl in beer ad.
RESULT: Sell beer.
Was it really such a stretch to make the beer robot a pretty woman versus a hairy, sweaty Dutchman in a thong? I think not.
When I hear these ad pros wailing about this commercial “portraying a woman’s uterus as a beer keg” and proving Heineken has found “an unprecedented way to be a gender offender” seems more than a little disingenuous. I mean seriously, this ad – of all beer ads ever made – has somehow managed to cross the line? Please.
I think these ad gurus have spent so much time making, watching and dissecting ads that they have become incapable of taking anything at face value anymore. Would Heineken really risk offending every beer drinking woman in the world by suggesting they are no more than mute beer taps to be made use of?
Heineken wants to sell beer. The ads they run will either do the job or not and they have no obligation beyond that. I don’t think this ad is quite the harbinger of doom some do. You see, sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar no matter how much someone is convinced otherwise.