It has been eight years— eight freaking years—since a YouTuber named Michael “CopperCab” Kittrell stood in his driveway screaming, “GINGER PEOPLE DO HAVE SOULS” into a handheld video camera. “I’m getting sick and tired of everyone making fun of red-haired people,” he said, in one of the video’s less meme-able and more sincere moments. Although more than 43 million people have watched Kittrell complain about being picked on for being a redread, it seems like none of them work at Carlton & United, the Australian beer company whose new commercial was just pulled for, um, picking on redheads.
The commercial, for Yak Ales, shows a beer-tasting scientist discovering “the Ginger Gene,” which its narrator says has been “floating around in our beer just like it’s been floating around in human DNA.” The decidedly weird premise involves bottles of Rusty Yak Gingery Ale that have been hidden in six-packs of other Yak Beers; anyone who finds one and “prevents the spread of the ginger gene” will be rewarded with 500 bucks. (“Ouch,” reads the only comment on the YouTube video).
So… get it? The brewer is suggesting that ginger beer is an unwanted surprise, just like a ginger kid! Despite that “lighthearted” premise—in the words of Carlton & United’s ad agency—the ad was met with complaints from those who believe that it promotes discrimination against and bullying towards redheads. “While the ad is clearly supposed to be satirical, imagine if the same standard was applied to any other group in society. Would it be OK to advertise a black stout in the same manner?” a Change.org petition against the ad read.
“It’s definitely a negative ad. We’re sure it makes Australian redheads feel like outcasts and that is not right,” Adrienne Vendetti-Hodges, the co-founder and editorial director of How to Be a Redhead, told MUNCHIES. “Imagine a young redhead who is uncomfortable being a redhead, maybe gets bullied at school for his or her red hair and sees this ad? That’s terrible! It also made us realize how redhead bullying is far worse abroad than it is in the States. A beer company [here] would never create an ad like this.”
The Advertising Standards Bureau received a number of complaints about the ad, and eventually ruled that yep, it was in poor taste. “The majority of the panel considered the suggestion that the genetic trait needed to be stopped was a negative one, and considered that the most reasonable interpretation of this line was that having red hair was undesirable,” the Advertising Standards Community Panel said, according to SmartCompany. “The majority of the panel considered that the inclusion of this line in the advertisement was vilifying of people with red hair as it was likely to incite ridicule of people with red hair.”
Carlton & United begrudgingly pulled the ad, but didn’t apologize for it. “The advertisements simply seek to associate the launch of the Rusty Yak Ginger Ale product with redheads in our community in an affectionate, light-hearted, and humorous way by linking the hair color with the ‘crisp and zingy Rusty Yak gingery flavor’ as stated in the advertisements,” the company said in a statement.
Vendetti-Hodges thinks an apology to the ginger community would be welcome. “We hope they do [apologize], not just for redheads but for everyone who is different in some way,” she said. “Companies should be promoting individuality, not bullying.”
Or, as CopperCab Kittrell said, “Don’t freaking be like that, OK?!”