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Heineken pulls ‘racist’ campaign, called out by American rapper

Heineken USA has removed all spots related to its campaign themed “Sometimes, lighter is better” from its social media channels after being called out by American rapper Chance the Rapper for being racist. The ad was meant to promote its Heineken Light beer.

The firestorm occurred when Chance the Rapper had tweeted out one of the videos, titled “Rooftop”, which was posted on ispot.tv. He started off by calling out companies which are intentionally launching “noticably racist ads”  to garner more views, before singling out Heineken’s “Sometimes, lighter is better” ad for being “terribly racist”. The video has since been pulled.

In a statement to Marketing, Heineken’s spokesperson said the company has developed a positive track record for decades for creating marketing that shows there is more that unites than divides individuals.

“While we feel the ad is referencing our Heineken Light beer, and that light beer is better than other high-calorie options—we missed the mark, are taking the feedback to heart and will use this to influence future campaigns,” the spokesperson added.

The “Rooftop” ad showed a bartender at an outdoor party using a pair of binoculars to spy on what party-goers are drinking, such as a glass of cocktail or wine. He then slides a bottle of Heineken Light down the bar, sliding past several people of colour before stopping in front of a woman with a lighter skin colour. This was combined with the tagline “Sometimes, lighter is better”.

According to Adweek, Publicis Italy was involved in the production of the campaign, and the TV spots were scheduled to launch in over 30 networks in the US, as well as out-of-home channels in multiple cities. A quick check by Marketing also found that the “Rooftop” ad was previously reposted on YouTube.

Netizens reactions were mixed, with some outraged at the subtle racism in the ad, urging people of colour to boycott the brand. Others, however, said the rapper was too sensitive and that by “lighter”, Heineken was referring to the amount of calories rather than skin colour.

Heineken is not the only company to have copped flak for racist ads. Earlier this year, Amazon UK pulled two Chinese traditional outfit costumes from its site, after the pictures featuring white children posing with slant eyed gestures drew criticism from consumers. Amazon neither explained why those products were on sale, nor did it apologise.

In January, H&M also apologised for an image on its UK online store featuring a black child in a green hoodie, with the phrase “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” printed on the hoodie. It copped flak for the loaded term, as the monkey is often being used in racial and ethnic slurs, especially against the black community.

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