Belvedere Vodka is in frantic damage-control mode after an ad that's being called a "horrifying emblem of rape culture" was posted on the company's official Twitter and Facebook page. (See it below.) The ad, which was promptly removed from the social media networks, depicts a drunk frat boy holding a girl who is clearly struggling to free herself from his grip, with an accompanying tagline that reads, "Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly" — apparently implying that the man is forcing the woman to engage in oral sex. Critics have blasted the ad as "shameful" and "misogynistic." The company has released two apologies. The first came via Twitter, to "our fans who were offended by our recent tweet." In the second, senior staff aplogized and pledged to donate to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). Should Belvedere be doing more to atone?
These apologies aren't enough: Belvedere needs to do more to make sure "that something like this doesn't happen again," says Feministe. And "calling for someone's head" is the only proper action. Whoever is responsible for this ad suffers from a "profound lack of judgment" and shouldn't remain on Belvedere's payroll. The company's claims that "this isn't is our culture" is meaningless unless Belvedere actually changes its culture by firing those behind the ad.
"Belvedere apologize, but what do we want?"
Let's not completely crucify Belvedere: "It's not easy marketing on the cutting edge of changing public tastes," says James Poulos at Forbes. A progressive company like Belvedere feels the pressure to "push the envelope just that much." Of course, in this instance, it failed miserably. Instead of pulling off an ad with adult themes, it made one that is "disgustingly juvenile." A company can be provocative and clever without being crass — perhaps a photo of a nightstand with an empty martini glass and Viagra pills would have worked — and Belvedere should hire someone more capable of toeing that line.
"Belvedere's failed rape joke ad: Lessons learned"
This actually might have been a PR stunt: The tongue-lashing Belvedere received was swift and fierce, says Phil Villarreal at The Consumerist. The apology came just as quickly, and making a donation to RAINN was certainly a valiant way to "drive the apology home." Nonetheless: "The cynical might wonder whether or not the campaign and apology made up a coordinated effort to draw attention to the brand."
"Vodka company apologized for sexual assault insinuation in ad"
Judge for yourself:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- The best places to find love — and lust — according to science
- How a drafting error could doom Obama's carbon regulations
- How the battle for religious freedom became a nonsensical free-for-all
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Sex can't explain the culture war
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
- Why GOP reformers are bound to fail
- Boyhood's refreshingly unsentimental take on motherhood
Subscribe to the Week