Want to look hot this summer? Bacardi suggests getting an “ugly girlfriend”

20th June 2009

Want to look hot this summer? Bacardi suggests getting an “ugly girlfriend”

I’m a teetotaler for various reasons* — at 30, I’ve never even been drunk if you can believe that — but even if I were the most raging of party girls, Bacardi’s new “Get an ugly girlfriend” ad campaign wouldn’t convince me to buy its line of fruity Breezers.

Remember the discussion the other day on how the beauty beast pits women against each other?  This is a prime example.  The campaign suggests that women — that is, attractive women — accessorize themselves with an “ugly girlfriend” in order to make themselves look better at the mall, the beach and other social situations.  The four “ugly girlfriends” featured on the campaign’s minisite are equal-opportunity offensive, including fat, thin and disabled women.  Consider taking along the horse-like Wendy, with the “noticeable limp” and “super-active sweat glands” to the next pool party.  Or take a beach stroll with Sally, whose “lumpy rolls” will make you “look your best in a bikini, without ever visiting a gym.”  Watching your weight?  Attend a BBQ with Daisy, whose “pimpled shoulders” will make your appetite disappear.  And Lucy, with her “rubbing thighs,” “sticking out jaw,” and “drooping breasts,” is the perfect “freckled pile of cellulite” to take along shopping.  The accompanying images showing clearly Photoshopped and otherwise radiant and blissfully unaware women makes the campaign all that more nauseating.

Bacardi Get an Ugly Girlfriend

Bacardi Get an Ugly Girlfriend

Bacardi Get an Ugly Girlfriend

The ads were produced by Israeli ad agency McCann Digital and launched in Hebrew and English along with a Hebrew-only Facebook page.  Tell Bacardi what you think of their sexist ad campaign hereUpdate: I just tried sending an email via the contact form using Firefox and received an error, but was able to send using Internet Explorer.

Related Links

Jezebel: Bacardi ad uses misogyny to sell alcohol to women

Copyranter: Bacardi says the hottest accessory this summer is an “ugly girlfriend”

* 1) I don’t like the taste of most alcoholic drinks. 2) I’m Buddhist and find alcohol consumption inconsistent with my spiritual beliefs.  3) My husband’s father has a minor alcohol addiction and while he has never been abusive, my husband suffered through many an embarassing public display as a kid, which has turned him off alcohol.  I support him in this through non-consumption.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, June 20th, 2009 at 10:12 am and is filed under Body Snarking, Diets, Disabilism, Fat Bias. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 53 responses to “Want to look hot this summer? Bacardi suggests getting an “ugly girlfriend””

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  1. 1 On June 20th, 2009, Stacey Stardust said:

    This is fucking disgusting. Incredible. Wow. I can hardly believe this is real.

  2. 2 On June 20th, 2009, Squillo said:

    Go to Barcardi’s website and take a look at their “Global Marketing Principals.”

    Principal 8 reads:

    “All marketing and promotional practices must be in good taste and must not contain indecent, demeaning, or insulting materials.”

    Apparently, that principal only applies to men, and women Barcardi feels are attractive.

  3. 3 On June 20th, 2009, Tiana said:

    I’d like to know how on earth they convinced those women to have their pictures taken for such a despicable purpose?????

  4. 4 On June 20th, 2009, Rachel said:

    @Tiana: The woman in the second ad looks familiar, but I can’t place her. Maybe they just used images from a stock photo collection they have the rights to. And some of the women definitely look Photoshopped to me.

  5. 5 On June 20th, 2009, elizabeth patch said:

    Thanks so much for posting this, and the link to the Bacardi website feedback. Here is what I just sent them:

    You’re new “Ugly Girlfriend” ad campaign is misogynist, hateful, disgusting and NOT FUNNY at all. In fact, it represents the WORST kind of hate bashing: that based on a stereotype. Replace Ugly “Girlfriend” with Jew, Black, or any other category and then see how far you would get with this. SHAME ON YOU!

  6. 6 On June 20th, 2009, Limor said:

    The models all look Israeli to me, and I agree that some of them look photoshopped. I haven’t been back to Israel for four years, but having grown up there and returning for annual visits, I can tell you that it’s much harder to be fat in Israel. It’s way more acceptable to ridicule fat people there, even publicly by strangers than it is here. Part of it is just a cultural thing, stranger will comment on all sorts of things and even strike up a random conversation with you, the other factor is the Israelis are really fixated with fashion and thinness.

    This ad campaign is nauseating.

  7. 7 On June 20th, 2009, Twistie said:

    Was the designer of this campaign twelve or something? Emotionally, at minimum.

    This is definitely ‘insulting’ and ‘in bad taste.’ Bacardi will definitely be hearing from me.

    Compare that to say the, oh drat, I’ve forgotten the brand of beer, but the campaign about ‘The Most Interesting Man In the World.’ Like you, Rachel, I’m a lifelong teetotaler, but I adore those ads because they’re fun and clever. They’re about making drinking the beer look fun, too, but not at the expense of anyone at all. It’s more than possible to come up with a clever campaign that makes the product – whatever it happens to be – look attractive without insulting anyone.

  8. 8 On June 20th, 2009, Brigid Keely said:

    What… I… WHAT?

    Oh my GOODNESS. This is appalling.

    All of these women look like women I know and love and adore spending time with. I consider them beautiful, btw, both physically and spiritually. I want to say that this ad copy reads like a joke or parody, it’s so over the top, but it obviously isn’t.

    Unlike you, I do drink, and greatly enjoy rum. I will not be purchasing Bacardi products any more, and will write them to tell them why.

  9. 9 On June 20th, 2009, Jen said:

    Jesus fuck that’s a bad add campaign. I wont be buying anything Bacardi this summer!

  10. 10 On June 20th, 2009, Ostara said:

    What I don’t get is how this ad is supposed to sell rum. Like, it isn’t even the sort of “drink Bicardi, it’ll make all your dreams come true!” type marketing, it’s like somebody at a corporate meeting thought “oh hey, let’s reinforce stereotypes! HAHA! Fat girl in a bathing suit! Pimpled girl! HAR! THIS IS AWESOME!” and then somebody else said “well that’s hilarious, but how do we work rum into that?… Wait, I know! Toss Bicardi in as an accessory! Cause everyone knows that on top of being bitchy and bad friends toward one another and always worried about which friend looks better, women just can’t pass up the perfect accessory!”

    I swear, marketing requires less and less cleverness and creativity these days and more and more just flat out offensiveness.

  11. 11 On June 20th, 2009, wellroundedtype2 said:

    I wonder how can we cause this campaign to backfire?
    What’s the greatest amount of damage that can be done to the Bacardi brand for choosing this tactic?
    Here are some potential slogans…

    Bacardi, the drink with the worst taste.

    People with bad taste drink Bacardi.

    Hateful people drink Bacardi.

    Other rums value diversity. Not ours.

    Differ from the norm in any way? Bacardi is not for you!

    Only perfect white people drink Bacardi.

    If a girl who drinks Bacardi wants to be your friend, walk away and don’t look back. Girls who drink Bacardi are shallow users.

  12. 12 On June 20th, 2009, elizabeth patch said:

    maybe Bacardi is one of those brands that monitors what people tweet. #banbacardi if you twitter!

  13. 13 On June 20th, 2009, Alison said:

    Well their sales must be down to even think of using an ad like this one. I think sales will even drop further.

  14. 14 On June 20th, 2009, Rachel said:

    @wellroundedtype2: I’d keep the focus on Bacardi itself and not its customers. This is an internet-only campaign, so chances are that many haven’t even seen it. I’d hate to stereotype people simply on the basis of what they choose to drink.

  15. 15 On June 20th, 2009, Melissa said:

    I’m feeling sick and I’m not even hung over.
    I won’t be buying bacardi!

  16. 16 On June 20th, 2009, Marianne from Cali said:

    I am astonished at the lows people will reach when trying to sell something. Especially alcohol. I’m going to go vomit now.

  17. 17 On June 20th, 2009, spoonfork38 said:

    When I started reading, I was afraid that this ad campaign was going to be a riff on the old, tired “Drink until she looks good” thing.

    This may be worse. It certainly isn’t any better.

    “Call your non-ugly girlfriends for shopping advice?”

    Holy Freaking Cow.

    I’ll bet McCann Digital won’t understand why any right-thinking person would find this offensive or why it’s an astonishing insult to the customers they’re hoping to attract. Unless they have a very narrow, shallow, and remarkably self-centered demographic target, here. If, so, well-aimed.

    No, they’ll just assume that anyone—correction, any woman—who argues against it is only doing so because she’s, well, ugly. And can’t take a joke.

    Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protest to Bacardi, because maybe the boss of whichever sniggering Peter Pan chose this campaign will understand that unless they change tactics, many people won’t be buying their products. Even to clean their toilet bowls.

  18. 18 On June 20th, 2009, Elizabeth said:

    I wonder if the whole point of this campaign is to piss people off…I mean, it’s so over the top.

    It kind of reminds me of The Anti-Gym, where the whole point is to get lots of people to look at it, and talk about it, by being as outrageously offensive as possible. Sure you drive away some customers, but think of the exposure! (And who wants uptight fatties and fatty-lovers associated with their products anyway?)

    I don’t believe in the whole “ignore the bully” paradigm, but there’s something about this case that makes me think our outrage is exactly what they’re going for.

    But I sure as hell won’t be buying any Bacardi now, or ever.

  19. 19 On June 20th, 2009, Elizabeth said:

    Of course, Bacardi hits more than just the fatty angle here, but I still wonder if they think anyone who would seriously be driven away by this ad is not someone they need.

  20. 20 On June 20th, 2009, scattered marbles said:

    That is just so disgusting, like Brigid Keely said all of those woman look like people I know and adore being with, who to me are 50 times more beautiful than a lot of the models I see in magazines. It bugs me that people think we are really so shallow that we would actually consider much less think it was ok to use a friend simply to make us look better. I have a feeling that these ads were not targeted at women but rather targeted at men who would find this funny, you know the ones who feel the need for a wingman to distract the “fugly” friend of the girl they are interested in. Sadly while I really don’t know any woman who would laugh hilariously at these ads, or actually buy into it, I do know guys who would find this side splitingly funny and actually think all women think like this. Ugh i am going to write to the company right now, as well as send this post along to some friends of mine who own bars or clubs and who have buying power over the inventory in them. they also have consciences and a good sense of right and wrong and offensive ads like these do effect what they buy.

  21. 21 On June 20th, 2009, Lexie Di said:

    This is disgusting. And what I hate even more is that it not only is offensive to the “ugly friend” but it even calls the “attractive girl” a piece of meat!: “The aquiline nose and tangled eyebrows will make you the most desirable piece of meat around the grill.”
    Oh. That’s great. Really, my dream come true. (<Sarcasm) Even if women were shallow enough to do something like this, who wants to be looked at like a piece of meat?! Not I.
    In my group of friends, I am the heaviest. I am the only one who needs to go to specialty stores for clothing… My friends are beautiful and I know they think I am too… So, poo poo on you, Bacardi!

    I don’t drink (much because I’m only 20 and much because I don’t really enjoy the taste of it) but when I do, I won’t be buying Bacardi. And I WILL be writing them, right now.

    @Twistie: Dos Equis is the type of beer you’re alluding to. And yes, their commercials are quite fun and entertaining. ^_^

  22. 22 On June 20th, 2009, Meowser said:

    This is an ad campaign running in Israel. (I can tell by the phone number in the ads.) So the target audience is Israeli women. It’s hard to believe Israeli women consider themselves so uber-WASPy looking that they wouldn’t identify a lot more with with these “ugly” women than with the so-called blonde ideal.

  23. 23 On June 20th, 2009, Charlotte said:

    *shakes fist at the patriarchy*
    I’m so mad about this. I hate how some advertisers think they can demean whatever group of people they want and it’s okay because it’s “humorous”. I hate that they’re using some ridiculous beauty standard to pit women against each other. And most of all, I hate that they’re promoting the objectification of women, both by men and other women.

  24. 24 On June 20th, 2009, wellroundedtype2 said:

    I’m sorry if I offended. I was trying a “fight fire with fire” approach.
    I’ll stick to the slogans that are against the company/brand, then:

    Bacardi, the drink with the worst taste.

    Other rums value diversity. Not ours.

    Differ from the norm in any way? Bacardi is not for you!

  25. 25 On June 20th, 2009, Bree said:

    Not only is Bacardi mocking women who don’t fit their beauty ideal, they are objectifying the women who do by comparing them to a piece of meat on the grill.

    *cue sarcarsm* Stay classy Bacardi.

  26. 26 On June 20th, 2009, Jackie said:

    Here’s what I sent to Bacardi:

    “I’ve heard about your Ugly Girlfriend campaign. I find it extremely mysogynistic, as well as just plain stupid. I guess you forgot women may drink Bacardi too, oops! I guess not now that you’ve just insulted all of them big time!

    The only positive thing that can come from this ad, is women will now associate men who drink Bacardi with being jerks. Which means even less money for you. Major fail!”

    They really have screwed themselves over big time. Who’s going to want to be associated with their brand now?

  27. 27 On June 20th, 2009, Rachel said:

    @wellroundedtype2: No offense taken. I just think the blame needs to be placed squarely on the company, where it belongs.

    @Jackie: Actually, the ad is already targeting women — it’s for their fruit-flavored Bacardi Breezers that are generally considered to be “chick” drinks (as opposed to beer, which is generally considered to be a “man’s” drink).

  28. 28 On June 20th, 2009, sarah said:

    Thanks for linking to the feedback form, Rachel. I just wrote and expressed my disgust.

  29. 29 On June 20th, 2009, Meryt Bast said:

    Hoooooooly smokes. This is unbelievable. I’m glad I don’t drink Bacardi.

  30. 30 On June 20th, 2009, Limor said:

    “This is an ad campaign running in Israel. (I can tell by the phone number in the ads.) So the target audience is Israeli women. It’s hard to believe Israeli women consider themselves so uber-WASPy looking that they wouldn’t identify a lot more with with these “ugly” women than with the so-called blonde ideal.”

    Israeli women are much more size conscious than American women. There is great cultural diversity in Israel (skin tones, hair color, eye color, facial features) but basically everyone is very size conscious. There is also a huge emphasis on fashion, much more so than here in the States.

    This ad makes more sense as an Israeli ad than it does as an American one, though incredibly offensive and idiotic nonetheless.

  31. 31 On June 20th, 2009, hunter said:

    I hate this!! Ugh. It insults EVERY woman. Who of us is out there thinking “Ha ha! They only mean ugly girls! But I’m attractive! I’m ‘a hot piece of meat’!”

    What a twisted campaign. I wrote them a letter that went into much more detail! :-)

    And Brigid, you are bang on! When I looked at those smiling girls I didn’t feel revolted or superiour…or whatever the hell I was supposed to feel (seriously, this is a really weird campaign that presumes so much!) I just wanted to smile back. They look ready to have fun. They look like my homies!

  32. 32 On June 21st, 2009, SteveD said:

    They are trying to be Funny and Sell Booze. Sorry but they miss the mark on funny.

    Maby they sampled the product too much when brainstorming for the ad?

    But really beauty is a lot more than skin.

    Best response is to not buy the product and not to send emails. Why? They just roll out the emails and say “Look we are getting exposure and selling product”

    It’s what you do to Web Troll. Let them die on the vine!@

    (oops drinking pun)


  33. 33 On June 21st, 2009, Jen said:

    It seems like the campaign site is down; maybe they took it down? Maybe we actually DID something?! :D

  34. 34 On June 21st, 2009, Marianne said:

    When I first saw this ad, via Shapely Prose, it took me quite a while to even figure out the ads and what they were trying to say, since the women pictured to me looked perfectly normal, I couldn’t figure out if the girls pictured were supposed to be the ugly friends or the pretty friends. So, offensive and I would say pretty confusing and ineffective as advertising goes.

    And off topic, if I may – thanks for the comment on why you don’t drink. I don’t drink often at all because most alcoholic beverages don’t taste good to me and make my stomach upset (even one). Plus I think there is plenty of alcoholism in my family that I don’t care to participate in or support. But there are times when I am pretty sure that my not drinking is second only to my being fat in my social unacceptability, at least in my (working/middle class white) culture.

  35. 35 On June 21st, 2009, Preston said:

    I am disgusted and offended beyond words. How a company can think like that is beyond me. You won’t find me buying any Bicardi products. And the site is still down. By the way, have you entered my one year anniversary contest? It ends Monday at noon.

  36. 36 On June 21st, 2009, DRST said:

    “But there are times when I am pretty sure that my not drinking is second only to my being fat in my social unacceptability, at least in my (working/middle class white) culture.”

    Marianne – me too. I don’t drink and never have, even before the blood sugar issues started. This meant a lot of sitting around watching other people get plastered when I was younger. So not only was I the fat friend, I was the sober person keeping an eye on everyone. It did not make for popularity.

    I really hope Bacardi catches hell for this on a global scale.


  37. 37 On June 21st, 2009, Michelle said:

    I’ve been trying to find out more about this campaign through emails to an Israeli friend. I have been tracking the developments on my blog. The campaign is apparently an old one, but it was submitted as new to an advertising site recently. I think that McCann Digital was attempting to win an advertising prize. I am not sure why they pulled the promotional sites. Perhaps enough angry people emailed Bacardi and Bacardi demanded they take it down.

  38. 38 On June 21st, 2009, Bacardi said:

    Thank you for taking the time to post your story on Bacardi Breezer.

    The campaign you are referring to ran in 2008 for two months in Israel. Even though Bacardi Breezer is not sold or distributed in the United States, we immediately notified the appropriate Bacardi affiliate and had this website shut down.

    Bacardi proudly celebrates diversity and we do not endorse the views of this site. We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by this site and thank you for bringing it to our attention.

  39. 39 On June 21st, 2009, Feminist Review said:

    This is what Bacardi responded:

    The campaign you are referring to ran in 2008 for two months in Israel. Even though Bacardi Breezer is not sold or distributed in the United States, we immediately notified the appropriate Bacardi affiliate and had this website shut down.

    Bacardi proudly celebrates diversity and we do not endorse the views of this site. We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by this site and thank you for bringing it to our attention.

  40. 40 On June 22nd, 2009, Bacardi responds to “Get an Ugly Girlfriend” complaints » said:

    [...] has issued this response to the hordes of complaints about its “Get an Ugly Girlfriend” Bacardi Breezers [...]

  41. 41 On June 22nd, 2009, twincats said:

    So, I won’t be buying Bacardi OR going to Israel. Thanks for the warning, those of you who gave the info about sizeism over there.

  42. 42 On June 22nd, 2009, Bacardi said:

    We wish to thank all of you who have written us about a past promotional campaign for Bacardi Breezer.

    As a Company and as individuals we are also angered and dismayed that such a campaign was ever created and we have taken immediate action to stop it as it violated our stringent global marketing principles that we firmly support.

    By way of explanation, but by no means an excuse, Bacardi never sponsored nor developed this promotion. But we understand it is our brand and our reputation and you are our consumers. We are also embarrassed that we didn’t catch this breach sooner. We have been urgently looking into this matter to make sure this type of activity is never repeated.

    What we do know is that a third-party developed and activated this brief campaign in one small market more than a year ago without our clearance. When we discovered this promotion, we instructed our distributor to shut it down as it did not comply with our global marketing standards. We are now urgently looking into the reasons why this program was recently reposted on the internet. In markets where Bacardi does not have a corporate presence, we are represented by third parties; in this case a distributor and its advertising agency, but they must adhere to our stringent marketing principles, which clearly this campaign did not.

    When Bacardi found out about this recent reposting, we immediately notified the agency and distributor to shutdown the website.

    Bacardi proudly celebrates diversity and we do not endorse the views of this site or the campaign, as it is offensive and completely inappropriate. We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by this campaign and thank you, our consumers for bringing it to our attention.


    Bacardi Limited

  43. 43 On June 22nd, 2009, Rachel said:

    Thank you for the more detailed explanation. It does indeed answer a lot of the lingering questions I and many others still had.

  44. 44 On June 22nd, 2009, mamaV of mamaVISION blog said:

    Hi Rachael: This letter is total and complete B.S!

    That renegade agency submitted the Ugly Girlfriend Campaign as their best work to The Cannes International Advertising Festival. Then, they were airheaded enough to twitter about it…hello?

    I thought you may be interested in my message back to Hillman that I posted on ShapelyProse:

    Mr. Hillman: How did the Bacardi “affiliate” retain McCann Digital for this campaign?

    McCann Digital is a highly respected agency, I find it hard to believe they would proceed on any campaign of this magnitude on behalf of an “affiliate” that did not have permission to do so.

    Further, McCann Digital Israel is quite proud of this campaign, seeing that they submitted it to The Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival which is going on as we speak.

    Do you intend to allow this renegade “affiliate” to tarnish Bacardi’s brand image in this way?

    Finally, does Corporate intend on submitting a statement of apology on this campaign, or are they asking you as the publicist to handle the uproar?


    PS Perhaps you and McCann Digital Israel should stay off twitter for the time being…your tweets don’t sit too well when the McCann is bragging about the campaign as you are apologizing for it. More here;

  45. 45 On June 22nd, 2009, Rachel said:

    @MV: We’re on the same wave-length. I had already sent the publicist back a note asking, “So, will Bacardi thus be pursuing legal action against McCann-Digital for using its brand without permission?” But I disagree with you on the corporate apology. It is the job of the PR firm to handle this kind of “uproar” and convey corporate statements; that is what they are hired to do.

  46. 46 On June 22nd, 2009, Mike said:

    These girls are my kind of ladies. I’d hate to see the skinny bags of bones, fake tan and hair extensions they’re being forced to hang out with. Breezer, keep ‘em coming!

  47. 47 On June 22nd, 2009, Seegz said:

    Mike, spite and namecalling will only make us look just as petty. Knock it off.

  48. 48 On June 23rd, 2009, Offensive Bacardi ads « Silver Web Journal said:

    [...] the last few days. Bacardi has since revised their response, which they have been posting in the comments section on several blogs in response to the controversy: We wish to thank all of you who have written us about a past [...]

  49. 49 On June 23rd, 2009, Steve Silver said:

    By the way, for those of you who want to contact McCann Digital on Twitter to express how you feel about their ad campaign — and the fact that they were so proud of it that they submitted it to a festival in Cannes — they can be reached at @McCann_Israel , or you can contact their associates directly: @alonbrenner @shaygoren @Refuah @Yuval32 @vivi6 @shaialmagor @Meravkan

  50. 50 On July 5th, 2009, MARIA DAVILA said:

    As a Puertorican woman, I am disgusted by this ad. I will stop buying my favorite drink, if Bacardi doesn’t make this right!

  51. 51 On August 2nd, 2009, Charles said:

    While yes at first glance these advertisments are horrible , however i will like to remind some women how mean they can be to each other by simply saying some women have been doing the same thing for years . I have had my share of going to the bar to see one good looking woman with less attractive women and when a man approaches to talk to the woman he deems good looking the other women get upset because he doesnt talk to them . Also the woman who is the most attractive of her friends is haveing a great time expelling wanna be suiters because in another place that girl might not be that good looking her self she knows this so she sucks up as much attion as she can while her friends are standing by while she gets all the attion . So in conclusion how can people be mad at this advertisment when they have been doing it for years?

  52. 52 On August 2nd, 2009, Ellen said:

    Charles: Because this is now, not ye olden times. If people hadn’t been doing it for years, then it wouldn’t exist and we wouldn’t be mad about it. Just because you’ve always done something, it doesn’t mean it’s okay. How about segregation? How about everyone thinking the sun revolved around the earth, and then Copernicus totally blowing everyone’s minds, and them eventually realizing they were all total asshats for thinking such nonsense? You do have a point about women doing this to each other though. Not the women who frequent this blog obviously, but SOME women. And women do this to men, too. It just isn’t as obvious because an ugly man doesn’t seem to be considered as worthless to society as an ugly woman. But that doesn’t make it any less mean or shallow.

  53. 53 On September 16th, 2009, 100% sexist » said:

    [...] seems that Coopers Premium Light beer is in competition with Bacardi to see which company can produce the most offensive ads to women.  An all-male creative team [...]

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