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23 Jun, 2023 20:39

Bud Light maker excoriated for customer-mocking ad

Anheuser-Busch's latest campaign is catching flak following its earlier disastrous deal with a trans influencer
Bud Light maker excoriated for customer-mocking ad

Bud Light manufacturer Anheuser-Busch was savaged on social media on Thursday over its most recent advertisement, which appeared to mock the same core market demographic it outraged months ago by partnering with controversial trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney. 

The ad depicts smiling clueless middle-class and almost exclusively white Americans attempting typical summer recreational activities despite an apparently poor grasp of the concepts of heat, light, liquids, and beverage cans. It ends by reassuring the audience that Bud Light is “Easy to Enjoy.” 

The brand tweeted the ad out on Thursday, promising “we’ve got an epic summer ahead,” and was promptly blasted, with over 23,600 comments compared to just 1,764 “likes” as of Friday afternoon. Many Twitter users demanded apologies from the brand for its mockery of “regular Americans,” women, and the brand's “existing, 'fratty' customer base.” One response featured a photoshopped version of the ad reading, “Easy to drink. Easier to boycott.” 

In an SEC filing last week, Anheuser-Busch acknowledged “the discussion surrounding our company and Bud Light has moved away from beer and this has impacted our consumers, our business partners and our employees.” 

Anheuser-Busch has lost $27 billion in market capital in two months. Bud Light’s core “middle America” demographic began boycotting the brand in April in response to its partnership with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney, which included a custom can emblazoned with the actor’s face and a promotional spot featuring Mulvaney in a bathtub. 

Sales of the brand remain down by 26.8% over the same period last year, and the slump has affected other Anheuser-Busch beers including Michelob Ultra and Budweiser. Alissa Heinerscheid, the marketing VP responsible for the disastrous promotion and once hyped for her status as the first woman to lead the formerly “fratty” brand, has taken a leave of absence from the company. 

Pledging investment to “protect the jobs of our frontline employees,” Anheuser-Busch said in its SEC filing that it would provide “financial assistance” to wholesalers – many of whom have been hit hard by the customer boycott – and promised the summer’s advertising would be devoted to “reinforcing what you’ve always loved about our brand – that it’s easy to drink and easy to enjoy.” 

Earlier this week, Anheuser-Busch’s chief marketing officer, Marcel Marcondes, received the ‘Creative Marketer of the Year’ award at the Cannes Lions – considered the ‘Oscars of advertising.' While the award was announced prior to the Mulvaney affair, Marcondes described the ad disaster as “an important wake-up call to all of us marketers first of all to be very humble.” He promised the brand would focus on customer appreciation going forward, “in a way that can make [consumers] be together, not apart.”