Windhoek Wins Appeal In Banned Sexist Beer Ad Case

An appeals committee has cleared a Windhoek ad that was previously banned for supposedly suggesting that “real men drink real beer”. Regulators had read non-existent sexism into the ad, said the appeals committee of the Advertising Regulatory Bureau in a new decision, published on BusinessInsider.

The ad features macho looking movie star Gerard Butler and was banned in January 2021 in South Africa after the Advertising Regulatory Bureau (ARB) labelled it as ‘toxic masculinity.

Although the ad never actually come out and say that real men drink real beer, the ARB said 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.

After re-watching the ad during the appeal, however, the ARB discovered that their 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.”

As far as “toxic masculinity” is concerned, the appeals committee said it had seen “that the clear message conveyed is that Windhoek Lager is a real beer that does not require the addition of lime to enjoy.” With no forbidden gender stereotypes discerned, the appeals committee set aside the original ban, which leaves the ad cleared to run on television again.

But 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.

Even if true, 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.

“Their voice and experiences must be represented in commercials intended to publicise producers’ products.

“This is in line with a non-racial, non-sexist and non-homophobic society that the South African Constitution guarantees and directs all of us to work towards.”

It “trust” that Heineken, and other beer makers, “will always heed this constitutional imperative in all their future research and marketing endeavours,” it said.