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Heineken tries, fails to play with tired gender stereotypes in alcohol marketing

RIP the male-dominated beer commercial.

Heineken tries, fails to play with tired gender stereotypes in alcohol marketing
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Historically, the beer commercial has long been a male-dominated domain. When women were included, it was primarily as eye candy or a joke device—or both.

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Now, a new Heineken ad is aiming to challenge the stereotypes of both beer ads and beer drinkers by playing with the stereotypes of certain drinks.

Here, the beer is for the ladies.

Created by agency Publicis Italy, we see waiters and bartenders mistaking elaborate fruity cocktails and flutes of champagne for the woman’s drink when all she wants is a beer. It’s a notion that feels incredibly outdated, as a trip to just about any bar will tell you that drinks of all stripes know no gender boundaries. If actual field research doesn’t convince you, maybe the years-long sales trend that has seen beer’s overall market share slow while growth of wine and spirits grew will. According to Nielsen, spirits actually led all growth in the alcohol industry last year. The good news is, they didn’t make the bottle pink.

Still, it’s an interesting time for Heineken to wade into the gendering of booze, particularly in the context of the skyrocketing rise of hard seltzer, where brands like White Claw and even the new Bud Light Seltzer are consciously avoiding gender-specific marketing, helping to feed the category’s 200% growth last year.

Maybe Heineken should consider remaking their hit 2009 commercial that hinged on the exact gender stereotypes that it’s now trying to dispel.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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