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Accused of Condoning Rape, Brazilian Beer Company Drops Carnaval Ad Campaign

leonkaye headshotWords by Leon Kaye
New Activism
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Carnaval is wrapping up in Brazil, which has meant several days of costumes, parades, fantastic live music and a fair share of debauchery until the wee hours of the morning. The type of partying varies depending on what city or region you happen to be visiting, but there is no shortage of revelry, food and drink. And speaking of drink: One of Brazil’s most popular beer brands, Skol, found itself and its company, Ambev, in controversy after a poorly thought-out advertising campaign.

In São Paulo, Skol ads went up last week proclaiming "Esqueci o ‘não’ em casa," which literally means, “I forgot the ‘no’ at home.”

Considering the social ills any country has, including substance abuse and domestic violence — which can get magnified during a time like Carnaval — it should not have surprised the marketing department at Skol that more than a few people found the campaign offensive. Ambev, with sales of over US$14 billion annually and owned by the beverage giant Anhauser-Busch InBev, had to lurch into damage control.

The backlash against the Skol campaign was largely due to Pri Ferrari, who herself is an illustrator in the advertising industry. Upon seeing one of the ads at a bus shelter in São Paulo, Ferrari and a friend, journalist Mila Alves, altered the poster with electrical tape and amended the message so it read "Esqueci o 'não' em casa. E trouxe o 'nunca" ("I forgot the ‘no’ at home and brought the ‘never.’") Other women began to show their indignation, and the result was a social media nightmare for Skol and Ambev. Ferrari’s post on Facebook scored several thousand “likes,” and the hashtag #SkolNunca ("Skol never") then began to spread quickly on Twitter.

“A man will never be made to feel what we feel.” – Pri Ferrari, São Paulo, Brazil, when asked about her reaction to the Skol advertising campaign.

Realizing the company was dismissing the age-old lesson that “no means no,” and its cute slogan could appear to condone rape, Ambev pulled the ads and replaced them with new messages that carried a theme of respecting others. The company also issued a halfhearted formal apology, saying the original campaign was launched with the premise of just “enjoying the good times,” but realized that the slogan in question could result in a “dubious misunderstanding.”

Pallid apology aside, Ambev at least realized how offensive its ad campaign could be to, well, about half of Brazil’s population. The stunt also cheapened a Brazilian tradition that dates back to the 19th century and is full of cultural traditions and pageantry -- not just about excessive drinking and celebrating brands that try to capitalize, in this case quite carelessly, on the fun.

Image credits: Pri Ferrari/Facebook

Based in California, Leon Kaye is a business writer and strategic communications specialist. He has also been featured in The Guardian, Clean Technica, Sustainable Brands, Earth911, Inhabitat, Architect Magazine and Wired.com. When he has time, he shares his thoughts on his own site, GreenGoPost.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye, Executive Editor, has written for Triple Pundit since 2010. He is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media, and the Editor in Chief of CR Magazine. His previous work can be found at The GuardianSustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. Kaye is based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye