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Marketing and Comms
As Carnival Starts in Brazil, Skol Sensibly Pulls Misguided Adverts

It’s now carnival in Brazil, a week when the population puts away its troubles and heads to the beaches and streets in a glorious celebration of dancing, music and life.So a few weeks ago some bright spark at Skol, one of the best-selling lagers here, drunk by millions — owned by Brazilian brewer Ambev — decided to throw away the rule book on advertising alcohol. They must have thought that all that stuff about ‘drink in moderation’ and ‘don’t drink and drive’ such a bore … They must have thought, ‘Stuff it, let’s have an outdoor advertising campaign that tells people to just go mental, abandon all moral codes and ethics, and go totally wild and say yes to everything.’

It’s now carnival in Brazil, a week when the population puts away its troubles and heads to the beaches and streets in a glorious celebration of dancing, music and life.

So a few weeks ago some bright spark at Skol, one of the best-selling lagers here, drunk by millions — owned by Brazilian brewer Ambev — decided to throw away the rule book on advertising alcohol. They must have thought that all that stuff about ‘drink in moderation’ and ‘don’t drink and drive’ such a bore … They must have thought, ‘Stuff it, let’s have an outdoor advertising campaign that tells people to just go mental, abandon all moral codes and ethics, and go totally wild and say yes to everything.’

Sounds good on paper, right? And so up went all the billboards and posters with the phrase:

Esqueci o ‘não’ em casa

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Translated literally this means “I left ‘no’ at home.” So what Skol are saying is that when you are in situations where you would normally say no, just forget that and say yes.

For many upstanding Brazilians, this was an outrage. It’s not like Brazil has problems with drugs, drunk driving, domestic violence or rape, is it now? For women, might this be just a little offensive? If you are in the Skol marketing department, and one of the senior executives at Ambev who signed off the campaign, is this not a little off-message, somewhat far from your brand values and company values?

The original Skol adverts

Their campaign spread rapidly, and Ferrari decided to contact Ambev. To Ambev’s credit, they immediately recognised how ill-advised this campaign was, and appear to have been able to react with admirable speed in taking down every ad, replacing them with these posters with the theme of respecting others:

For me, it is a case of he or she who is without guilt can throw the first stone. I never throw the first stone. We have all made a mess at some point in our lives. The great measure of character is how we respond.

We live in difficult times, where politicians in Brazil are stealing not millions but billions, and Brazil itself is heading into a calamitous drought with no leadership in sight. And in Britain our politicians are doing all they can to bury one of the worst scandals in British political history, heinous crimes against children by those in the highest elite positions of British society.

It is not politicians who respond quickly to the moral outrage of the people, but brands. Look how fast Ambev admitted responsibility, accepted its error, and took immediate steps to rectify a very misplaced advertising campaign. Do you see politicians acting in this manner? I certainly don’t.

In our networked age, people are coming together to demand a new level of transparency and ethics in public and commercial spheres. Brands are reacting, and responsible brands are those who not only talk about being ethical, but who are ethical, moral and are practising what they preach. Our politicians would do well to learn from this.

Cheers, Ambev — great to see you doing the right thing in the end.

This post first appeared on the Transition Consciousness blog on February 14, 2015.

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