Heineken Pulls “Purposely Racist” Ad Amid Backlash

Heineken recently pulled an ad for a low-calorie beer that some, most notably Chance The Rapper, said was “terribly racist.” In the ad (shown above) a bartender slides a bottle of Heineken Light on a bar past three different black people before it arrives in front of a light-skinned woman. “Sometimes,” the ad said, “lighter is better.” Chance took to Twitter, telling his followers “I gotta just say tho. The ‘sometimes lighter is better’ Heineken commercial is terribly racist omg.” He went on to accuse the company of “purposely putting out noticeable [sic] racist ads” in order to attract attention and gain a larger audience.


In a statement the company said “while we feel the ad is referencing our Heineken Light beer, we missed the mark, are taking the feedback to heart and will use this to influence future campaigns.” The ad has since been pulled globally.

Of course, as Chance himself suggested, his criticism gave the ad (and the brand) much more additional exposure. Writing in The Atlantic in response to the controversial Pepsi Kendall Jenner ad, Ian Bogost said that such “mistakes” may attract far more attention than non-controversial ads. In the end, Bogost said, “the commercial probably had a much greater effect even though it was technically pulled than it might have had otherwise.” As proof that such flubs aren’t necessarily a bad thing, National Public Radio reported that the day after the controversy broke around the Heineken ad, the company’s stock price went up, not down.

It may be hard to believe that such mis-steps are intentional. But what if they are? And what can be said about how short-lived these controversies are? Many thanks to #jmcawesome alum Maria Watson for the tip.

[Sources: The Atlantic; Heineken USA; The Independent; National Public Radio]

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