After the South African Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) banned an ad from Windhoek Lager for “promoting” toxic masculinity, as it suggests that only “real men” drink beer earlier in 2021, the ad has been cleared for use again.
The ad, which was released some time ago, features Hollywood actor Gerard Butler – “a macho movie star” as described by the regulator – remonstrating a fellow patron who asks for a slice of lime with his Windhoek. During the investigation, the advertiser went on to state that the call out by Butler on the usage of lime was not, and is not, meant to discriminate against women. The intention was simply to profile Windhoek’s uncompromising commitment to delivering a beer that is 100% pure and does not need any flavouring.
At the time, the ARB took issue with both “the entrenchment of the role of men as having to behave in a certain way” and “the entrenchment of male behaviour that is bullying, and what has come to be labelled as ‘toxic masculinity.’”
The ARB asserted that the bar patron is a “gentle-looking, red-headed man – two characteristics that might typically make him a target for teasing in a toxic environment.”
“The reality is that it is exactly the unspoken nature of the communication that makes it particularly dangerous – the gender stereotype portrayed as so normal that it does not even require explanation.”
Now, the ARB ruled that the advert may once more be used:
It discovered that the ARB’s decision had “involved reading-in messages into the commercial that are not borne out by the presentation of the commercial and the facts relayed or portrayed in the commercial.”
What’s more, Business Insider reports that “with no forbidden gender stereotypes discerned, the appeals committee set aside the original ban, which leaves the ad cleared to run on television again”.
Even though the advertisement is cleared of use again, Windhoek’s makers Heineken, and beer companies in general, got a stern warning in the appeal decision, because of the all-male cast in the ad.
In fighting off the ban, Heineken presented research showing a large majority of beer drinkers in South Africa are men. But, even if this is the case, the committee said in its formal ruling, “the minority female drinkers of beer must not be treated as a silent minority in the design of marketing material by producers such as Heineken” and that their “voice and experiences must be represented in commercials intended to publicise producers’ products”.