Heineken Failing Upwards in Advertising Trap

  • Negative headlines have a 63% higher click-through rate
  • Shares of Heineken are down 0.5% year-to-date

Chicago lyricist Chance the Rapper calling out Heineken (HEIA:EN -0.82%) for its seemingly racist ad, may have only furthered its reach with consumers. The beer giant went after the common media denominator in its latest ad which is fragmentation, by getting people's shattered attention spans to focus on one thing. Could having a Grammy-winning artist criticize your brand actually be beneficial?

Why This Matters: Heineken is banking on the old adage, "All press is good press," even after it pulled its 'Lighter is Better' commercial. The company’s stock is up around 2.5% since the ad surfaced. This isn't definitive proof the company’s stock price was positively impacted by the ad controversy, but it certainly shows it wasn't hurt by it.

In 2014, Adweek looked at a study that suggested negative headlines have a 63% higher click-through rate than positive ones. This is something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by businesses. "I think companies are purposely putting out noticeably racist ads so they can get more views," Chance the Rapper posted on Twitter.

Other brands have been called out for lacking cultural sensitivity in advertisements. Last fall, Dove was forced to express "regret" over a racially insensitive ad. A year ago, Pepsi's (PEP +1.06%)  out-of-touch ad featuring Kendall Jenner had its rollout halted. Also, Kellogg's (K +0.40%) faced criticism after its Corn Pops ad depicted the sole brown Corn Pop as a janitor.

Situational Awareness: When consumers get lost amid the noise of media reactions towards an insensitive ad, perhaps a second thought should be given to the best way of calling out the company. If a "controversy" is stoked on Twitter, and news outlets post their articles about it on Facebook, it's reasonable to assume a large audience would be scooped into paying attention. Even if that audience win is achieved by a failing ad, the combination presents a useful overlap for a brand.

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