“Lighter is better” Heineken ad cops racism claims

Caleb Triscari /

Heineken Light advertisement

A still from the Heineken TV ad.

An advertisement from alcohol brand Heineken has copped criticism after being branded as racist for its “lighter is better” tagline.

In a recent television advertisement for its Heineken Light product, a bartender slides a bottle of the beer along a bar, passing three dark-skinned people, to reach a fair-skinned woman. The words “sometimes, lighter is better” then appear on screen. BBC reports the advertisement was aired in Australia, New Zealand and the US.

The advertisement sparked online backlash, including criticism from US musician Chance the Rapper. Social media users have said the advertisement is racist because the beer slides past people with a darker skin tone and ends up with a person with a lighter skin tone.

NBC reports Heineken has since pulled the advertisement from television.

Chance the Rapper said advertisements featuring questionable content are created for the sole purpose of getting an audience at the expense of marginalised communities.

“I’m not saying [boycott] them or go off I’m just noticing how often it happens and I think they [are] baiting consumers and tweeters,” he said on Twitter.

One Twitter user agreed with Chance’s suggestion, saying “it’s bizarre that they’d even think it’s ok. Makes me think Chance’s theory is correct. It’s subtle enough to maintain deniability, but noticeable enough to gain publicity”.

However, not everyone agrees that the advertisement was racist, with some social media users saying people are overreaching with their arguments. One tweet said Heineken had “bowed down to pressure” by pulling the advertisement from circulation.

In a statement, Heineken told NBC it had made a mistake with the advertisement and will learn from the criticism it had received.

“For decades, Heineken has developed diverse marketing that shows there’s more that unites us than divides us,” a spokesperson 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.”

Caleb Triscari

Caleb Triscari is a former SmartCompany sub-editor.