The ad agency behind the Bud Light debacle that paired the brand with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney, a man who identifies as a woman, won the ad industry’s equivalent of an Oscar.
Bud Light parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev’s top executive Marcel Marcondes was honored with the most prestigious award in all of advertising at the annual Cannes Lions Festival in France, the New York Post reported.
In a press release in March, the festival said, “The award [Creative Marketer of the Year] recognizes AB InBev’s sustained creative excellence that has driven sustainable business growth — as well as their body of Lion-winning work amassed over a sustained period of time, and reputation for producing brave creative and innovative marketing solutions.”
“It’s tough to see all the controversial and divisive debates happening in the U.S. the last couple of weeks involving lots of brands and companies, including, especially, Bud Light,” said @abinbev’s Marcel Marcondes. #AdweekAbroad #Cannes2023https://t.co/ZfNtGaInjE
— Adweek (@Adweek) June 19, 2023
Marcedonas also gave opening remarks at the festival and labeled the disastrous partnership with Mulvaney a “wake-up call” for the industry after consumers boycotted the brand, making it lose the title of best-selling beer in America.
“In times like this, when things get divisive and controversial so easily, I think it’s an important wake-up call to all of us marketers, for us to be very humble,” Marcondes said.
AB InBev is “really reminding ourselves of what we should do best every day, which is to really understand our customers, which is to really celebrate and appreciate every customer that loves our brands, but in a way that can make them be together, not apart,” he added.
The executive stopped short of apologizing after AB InBev lost nearly $20 billion in value since the Mulvaney campaign in April.
Opinions on the company accepting the award were mixed, The Wall Street Journal noted. Some marketers at the event felt the work that the company did outside of the partnership with Mulvaney shouldn’t negate the other success it had while other delegates questioned their acceptance of the award, suggesting the agency could’ve declined.
Leila Fataar, founder of cultural and marketing strategy firm Platform13, tweeted, “In the spirit of fairness and credibility, I think it would be a big and the right gesture for AB InBev to give the 2023 award back, make the changes necessary and come back even stronger.”