It wasn’t long before advertising firms around the nation learned a thing or two from the internet. Posting “controversial” things can mean incredible pageviews, so why shouldn’t they get into it? We really thought we’d seen it all — until last Friday, when Belvedere Vodka released a new ad on its social streams. The ad featured a laughing man with his arms around a woman who was clearly trying to elude him, her brows knitted in a frown and her mouth open into a plea for help as she tried to pull away. The text on the ad read, “Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly.”
In a world where a lot of sexually coercive situations involve alcohol, it’s unconscionable to run an ad like this one. In fact, horrible economy or not, we hope the people responsible were not only fired immediately, but tattooed on the forehead with the words “utterly unhirable.”
A furor ensued and Belvedere quickly yanked the ads from their Facebook and Twitter profiles. They released an apology and assured the public that they are advocates of responsible drinking. The next day, the president of Belvedere called the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) to apologize. Per RAINN:
We got a call from Belvedere Vodka’s president, who was profusely apologetic about an offensive Facebook post yesterday. He stressed how much it was contrary to his values and what Belvedere stands for, and that he feels awful about it. He offered to make a generous donation to RAINN to support our work to help victims of sexual violence and educate the public. Nice to see a company that not only undoes its mistake but looks for a way to do good afterwards.
Despite their swift corrective action and efforts to make good, some don’t think they’ve done enough, saying that until Belvedere creates form of internal regulation to avoid mistakes like these in the future, the donation to RAINN will continue to feel like hush money.
And the worst is not over for Belvedere. According to LAist, the woman used in the advert is a voice actress named Alicyn Packard who was not aware her image was being used in connection with this campaign. Packard has filed a suit against the company seeking damages for misappropriation of her likeness and emotional distress. It seems the image was taken from a video she put together with the smiling man in the photo, her business partner Chris Strickland. Wow, really?