Ethics Dunces: Belvedere Vodka and Arnell

“Ethics Dunces” doesn’t really do these two organizations justice. Try “too dumb to live” and “too unethical to be trusted with sharp objects.”

Or vice-versa.

Marketing whizzes Arnell devised this hysterically funny vodka ad for Belvedere Vodka, showing a happily horny man sexually assaulting a terrified female victim. What fun! And such a witty tag line: “Unlike Some People, Belvedere Always Goes Down Smoothly.”

Goes down, get it?

It took about an hour after this juvenile, rape-friendly offal was posted on Twitter and Facebook for there to be such a negative reaction that even the bombed cretins at the vodka company were able to figure out something was wrong. So they pulled the ad, and apologized, kind of, tweeting,

“We apologize to any of our fans who were offended by our recent tweet. We continue to be an advocate of safe and responsible drinking.”

Uhhhhhhno. “We apologize to those who were offended”–a non-apology apology. Ethics strike two. “We continue to be an advocate of safe and responsible drinking”—what? These idiots still didn’t understand what they were supposed to be apologizing for!!!   Ethics Strike THREE!

You are a D-U-N-C-E!

Then some critics managed to explain it to them in firmly worded Facebook posts and tweets. “OOOOHHH! Like, the fact that the guy is forcing the woman to go down…like in raping her! THAT’S what all the fuss is about? Well, silly us. It that was a snake, it would have bitten us! Sure, now we get it! Yeah, yeah, yeah, that was a little edgy, wasn’t it? Okay, okay…NOW we know how to apologize for it!”

So the ethics-challenged vodka-heads at Belvedere sent out two apologies on Facebook, both in the time-honored tradition of people caught doing something that shows their wretched values who want to try to convince everyone, or at least everyone who’s a prospect to buy Syrian gold vacation futures, that they somehow managed to do something completely alien to their natures. First came this one:

“I am Jason Lundy, SVP of Global Marketing for Belvedere. Unfortunately a Facebook &Twitter posting was made today that has offended many of our fans and followers — and indeed the people who work here at Belvedere. The post is absolutely inconsistent with our values and beliefs and in addition to removing the offensive post we are committed to making sure that something like this doesn’t happen again.

“As an expression of our deep disappointment and regret, we are making a charitable donation to a women’s support cause. We deeply apologize to our fans & followers.”

Translation: “Even though I hired the outfit that came up with this slogan, and it was reviewed up and down the chain of command by all of us, including me, what we approved and didn’t see anything offensive about—even after the web started going crazy—was completely contrary to our values. Go figure. All I can think of as an explanation is that we all were possessed by the demon Pazuzu…you know, just like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist” where she says all those dirty words and spits pea soup. So we’re removing that funny ad—OFFENSIVE!!! I meant offensive ad, because that’s what everyone says the ad is, so by golly, the customer is always right.  And we’re giving money to some women’s group or another, because we know that it’s those uptight broads who don’t get the joke in the ad…I mean the OFFENSIVE ad, and, as you know, money solves everything.”

That one wasn’t so convincing, so Belvedere brought out the Big Cheese himself to deliver a real apology:

“My name is Charles Gibb and I am the President of Belvedere Vodka. I would like to personally apologize for the offensive post that recently appeared on our Facebook page. It should never have happened. I am currently investigating the matter to determine how this happened and to be sure it never does so again. The content is contrary to our values and we deeply regret this lapse. As an expression of our regret over this matter we have made a donation to RAINN (America’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.”

Translation: “Apparently my lackeys have mishandled this, so now I have to apologize too, damn them. Of course, everybody here knows that the ad was posted because nobody in our ethically inert and brain-dead corporation, including me, saw anything wrong with making a joke out of rape, and we all had a good laugh when we first saw it. Nobody saw anything offensive because we’re all arrested development cases here and because the last woman we had in an executive position was good old LaVerne in the Nineties, and that was only because the Chairman of the Board was..well, you know. The ad was posted because we reviewed it and approved it and got it posted, but I have to pretend that it magically appeared and that I’m appointing a committee to investigate how some rogue rape-fan on staff got it on Twitter. I think that’s the story we agreed upon. Anyway, the ad is contrary to our values, so I must say I have to agree with Lundy about the Pazuzu thing…that is, if nobody buys the rogue rape-fan story. But look, since Jason posted his apology, we actually found an anti-sexual violence organization, so we’re giving a check to it as kind of a self-imposed fine, because some people will believe we’re sincere, and because, of course, money solves everything.”

[Thanks to Rhonda Hill for the tip.]

5 thoughts on “Ethics Dunces: Belvedere Vodka and Arnell

  1. I keep asking myself why these things keep happening. Every month or so, there is some ad campaign that people find offensive and the company has to apologize for it. Now, I realize that the companies are run by people with no ethical or moral values and, in fact, probably mock people that have any. Businesses seem to be run by narcissists and sociopaths, so it should be expected to think that ads like this are funny. However, they should have figured out that it causes problems for their company and hired someone who knows how to put together a focus group to catch this sort of thing early. These ads keep happening, however (just search for ‘ad causes outrage’) .These ads seem to be in two classes…

    (1) An ad that shows just how morally bankrupt the company’s leadership and advertising agency is. These usually look like they belong on an internet humor site frequented by college fraternity members. This vodka ad is a perfect example.

    (2) An ad that shows that no one at the company knows how to use Google. Nike’s ‘Black and Tan’ shoe for St. Patrick’s Day (really, Nike) and Umbro’s Zyklon running shoe (at least it wasn’t launched as a Yom Kippur shoe) are classics of this variety.

    These should be well known by now and there really is no excuse for this sort of thing to happen. The ad agency should fire all the people involved and Belvedere should fire or move every employee involved to a job that doesn’t involve any contact with the public or customers.

    There is a third class of such adsthat can’t really be predicted. These are just going to happen. Companies should pretty much ignore such criticism.

    (3) An ad that causes outrage because people haven’t recently found anything to really be outraged about (slow news day outrage). Example: People were outraged by a movie poster for a violent movie because the rapper 50 cent was holding a gun on the poster.

    • I share your amazement. It’s not always offensive…sometimes an ad is just amazingly stupid or confusing, and you wonder how it could have reached the airwaves with nobody saying “wait…do we really want to show this?” (Also known as “The Emperor has no clothes!”)

      I remember how many years ago a national tech firm now defunct—Sperry– launched a slogan via TV ads. The slogan was, “Into Your Hands, Out of Our Minds!” It took about 24 hours before the whole, multi-million dollar campaign was pulled. Not one person, apparently, read “Out Of Our Minds” as something a company shouldn’t be boasting about, until the calls and letters started coming.

  2. At first I thought the fellow was doing the Heimlich maneuver and the point is that you don’t choke on Belvedere because it goes down smoothly. If you think about it that way it makes the ad less offensive but a whole lot more surreal.

  3. Jack,
    Nothing about the ad suggests the guy in the ad intended to rape the woman or force her to perform oral sex, only that she seemed uninterested while he continued to press the issue. He’s grabbing her inappropriately, sure, which (I would argue) is still deplorable behavior nonetheless, but far from rape.

    Moreover, I continue to fall back on my “creative license” argument that I employed during our Tide debates. Even if the ad WAS “advocating” rape, it’s still JUST an advertisement. Bad taste? Sure. Unethical? That’s something else. Needless to say, it’s unlikely any potential rapist would be pushed over the edge after seeing an ad for Vodka and thinking to himself “Well, that guy in the ad seems to be getting away with it, maybe I can too!”

    Or maybe I just have no soul ..

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