6 Controversial Commercials Beer Companies Want You to Forget

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Alcohol can be a controversial topic in America, which prohibited its manufacture, transportation, and sale from 1920 to 1933, followed by a voluntary decades-long ban on liquor advertising on radio and television. That ban ended in 1996, and since then, many commercials have emerged, some of which have sparked their own controversy for taking things too far. That’s the case with these commercials that beer companies would rather you forget.

Beer Commercials
Sometimes beer commercials go too far. (Photo Credit: Pixabay)

When marketers create advertisements for their products, they want them to be memorable, thus keeping the brand in customers’ minds for as long as possible. Unfortunately, sometimes marketing misses the mark and becomes controversial when things go too far, whether that be for perceived sexism, bigotry, or just being generally offensive. Sadly, controversy makes them memorable, much to the dismay of the alleged offender, which brings us to our list. Here are 6 controversial commercials that beer companies would rather you forget.

1. Colt 45 “Works Every Time” ads

Billy Dee Williams of “Star Wars” fame starred in a series of ads for Colt 45 in the mid-1980s. Although the ads varied, they all reportedly had a similar theme to the one below, in which Billy talks about the “power of Colt 45.” After cracking open a cold one, the doorbell rings as an attractive woman enters the room. “Hey, Billy, you free tonight?” she asks before he then looks at the camera and says, “Works every time.”

The commercial, which ends by saying, “The power of Colt 45, it works every time,” has been accused of “essentially” promoting “using beer (OK, technically malt liquor) to intoxicate and take advantage of women,” according to Eat This, Not That! “There is little left to the imagination as to what is meant by the slogan, and there’s no doubt these ads would never fly today,” the website alleges.

2. Meghan Markle & skinny jeans ad by Miller Lite

As many of us are well aware, Meghan Markle was an actress before she became the Duchess of Sussex. While she’s most known for her role as Rachel Zane in the hit show “Suits,” she was also in a 2010 commercial for the Miller Coors Beverage Company, where she played a bartender, who mocks a man for wearing his “girlfriend’s pants.” The guy corrects the bartender, saying they are skinny jeans and that they are “in” as the camera pans out to show the jeans with their narrow ankles. “Man up, and choose a light beer with more taste!” a narrator says. The ad has been criticized for playing “heavy on gender stereotypes.”

3. Heineken’s “Sometimes, lighter is better” tagline

In 2018, Heineken pulled a series of light beer commercials that featured the tagline “sometimes, lighter is better,” after one of the ads was criticized for being “racist,” according to the NY Times. In the ad, a bartender slides a bottle of Heineken Light toward an attractive female with a pale complexion. The beer skates past three black patrons before reaching the intended recipient as the slogan fills the screen. The marketing was criticized as appearing to support a preference for fair complexions. After pulling the ad, Heineken issued an apology.

4. Bad Dog Bud Light ad

This one started out innocently enough with a man watching television with his faithful furry companion. When the “bad dog” makes a move for the man’s sandwich, he jerks his plate away. Sadly, that causes his beer to roll under the couch. When he bends over to get it, the “bad dog” mounts him right as two women walk in the door and think they have caught the man being intimate with the animal. Although the commercial was obviously intended to be a joke, Bud Light found out the hard way that certain topics should be avoided.

5. Miller Light’s banned Catfight ad

During the 2003 National Football League playoff games, Miller Light aired an ad called “Catfight” that played into the stereotype about female fights. As two men dream up an “ideal” beer commercial, a poolside argument turns “into an angry, clothes-shredding, wrestling match between two women who end up in bras and panties,” USA Today reported. The ad, which was broadcasted to millions of viewers, was criticized by many for being “explicit” and “degrading.”

Even though as many as 200 angered viewers e-mailed their displeasure to the Milwaukee brewer, company executives said it was a hit with its target audience: 21-to-31-year-old beer drinkers. “They see it for what it is: a hysterical insight into guys’ mentality,” explained Tom Bick, Miller Lite brand manager at the time. “It’s really a lighthearted spoof of guys’ fantasies.”

6. Bud Light & its partnership with a transgender influencer

While this one wasn’t a television commercial like the rest, we’d be amiss if we didn’t mention it after the “bloodbath” Anheuser-Busch suffered as longtime and loyal consumers revolted against the company’s so-called “transgender campaign,” according to Fox News. To make a long story short, Bud Light and its parent company partnered with transgender TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney in an effort to be inclusive and reach a younger audience. The social media influencer boasting 10 million followers “was sent packs of Bud Light with her face printed on the cans as part of an ad for the beer company’s March Madness contest,” the NY Post reported.

Hoping to cash in on Mulvaney’s large following, Bud Light went viral, but not in the way they had hoped. Instead, the company was criticized for recklessly stepping into “the culture wars” as people, including celebs like Kid Rock, recorded themselves destroying their Bud Light products. In the wake of the backlash, bar owners reported a drop in sales of the popular beer, and stocks took a dip, Newsweek reported. Bar owner Jeff Fitter summed up the marketing catastrophe, saying, “In Bud Light’s effort to be inclusive, they excluded almost everybody else, including their traditional audience.”