AdvertisingGender InequalityOn The Pulse

Why are Beer Commercials Still Ignoring Women?

By January 18, 2010 10 Comments
A Heineken ad featuring a blonde, female robot serving beer

A Heineken ad featuring a blonde, female robot serving beer

I drink beer. I’m a woman.

According to the Beer Institute, I’m not alone: women make up 25 percent of the beer market.

Hmmm. Strange. Because most beer commercials I’ve seen recently either a) don’t include any women at all;
or b) depict women solely as Barbie cheerleader types who serve men beverages.

In a 2001 USA Today article, Benj Steinmen, president of Beer Marketer’s Insights, gives a little insight into this paradox: “Brewers have been reluctant to market to women for fear of alienating their core audience: men. But beer consumption among women is growing. And they like light beer.” The USA Today article goes on to cite TV ads for Amstel Light, Miller Lite, and Bud Lite as examples of a shift towards advertising beer to women.

Well, it’s almost 9 years later, and beer advertisers are still doing just that: marketing light beer to women. But most ad campaigns for beer are still eye-rollingly, ridiculously sexist.

Heineken Commercial:

Miller Light Commercial:

Bud Light Commercial:

But who cares, right? We should celebrate. We’ve been invited into the old boys’ club–as long as we stick with light and leave the real stuff to men.

In a 2008 post on the topic, a blogger at Jezebel asked:

If women already drink beer, do brewers even need to bother directing ads toward them? Or it is high time advertisers stopping ignoring half the market? And do women drink beer despite the lack of women-centered advertising, or because it’s a “manly” choice?

I drink beer because I like the taste. I like the carbonation. I like the way it compliments certain foods. I’d like to give other female beer-drinkers the benefit of the doubt and say they drink beer because they like the taste, too. And as a female beer-drinker, I’m sick of the boys-will-be-boys crap of beer advertisements. I say it’s high time advertisers stop ignoring half the market.

As a whopping 25 percent of their customer base, women have the economic power to create change. There are many ways to take action:

1. Support brands that don’t use sexist advertising.

2. Read and support initiatives such as Women Enjoying Beer, an organization that encourages breweries to better market to women and has a blog with posts on women-friendly breweries.

3. And last but not least, when you see beer ads that offend you, file an advertising complaint with the Beer Institute.

4. In Canada, you can contact the Brewers Association of Canada.

5. You can also write to breweries directly.

Will any of this actually help? I don’t know—beer advertisers seem convinced that gendering beer is the best strategy. But maybe, little by little, we can help them realize that alienating half the market just doesn’t make economic sense.

For further reading on this topic, check out:

Half a Market Waiting

–Katherine L.

Katherine Leyton is a freelance writer and poet from Toronto, Canada. She has a B.A. in English Literature from McGill University and an MsC in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh. Her work focuses on the construction of gender and has appeared in The Malahat Review, The Feathertale Review, The Globe and Mail, and The South China Morning Post. She believes writing can create positive change in women’s lives and is involved with Sister Writes, a non-profit organization in Toronto that runs creative writing workshops for marginalized women.