Ad Agency Behind Bud Light Debacle In Panic Mode

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In an era of sweeping social change, major corporations are increasingly turning to influencers as a means of marketing and connecting with their target audience.

While this strategy has met with success in some cases, it can also backfire spectacularly – as was the case when Captiv8, a San Mateo-based company that connects consumer brands with social media influencers, introduced Anheuser-Busch to transgender actress Dylan Mulvaney.

The resulting TikTok video quickly went viral and sparked an intense backlash from conservative Republicans who viewed it as another example of corporate America being out of touch with American’s values.

Co-founded by Krishna Subramanian in 2015, Captiv8 boasts a database of over one million influencers on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok who have worked with brands such as Walmart, American Express and KraftHeinz.

Although Subramanian often acts as an expert on the subject of influencer marketing, not much is known about the inner workings of his company or its office space which reportedly only accommodates around twelve staff members.

The ill-fated campaign featured Mulvaney taking a bubble bath while holding up a Bud Light beer can bearing ‘her’ own image – though it’s unclear whether Captiv8 had any direct involvement in producing the video or providing the can itself.

As soon as the video was posted online on April 1st 2021 there was apparently “a lot of chatter” among employees at Captiv8 regarding what kind of blowback they could expect due to the campaign’s misstep.

Anheuser Busch InBev (ABI), parent company to Bud Light beer, responded swiftly by placing two executives – Alissa Heinerscheid (VP Marketing) and her boss Daniel Blake – on leave for their part in the fiasco while informing distributors that neither ABI nor any of its facilities were responsible for producing Mulvaney’s beer can, instead citing an unnamed third party advertising agency whose services had since been terminated.

In February 2021 however, Heinerscheid had gone on record during a podcast stating that she believed Bud Light had become “fratty” and “out of touch” which left many wondering if this campaign was intended to be part revenge mission against those higher up at ABI who may have slighted her career path in some way or another.

Unfortunately for ABI sales suffered greatly following this incident; experiencing their worst week ever during May 20th, 2021 when figures dropped 25% according to Bump Williams Consulting and Nielsen IQ data – making them vulnerable to losing their status as No 1 US Beer Brand if these numbers continue unchecked into June 2021 onwards.

According to the NY Post:

A two-minute video on Captiv8’s website depicts a tour of a swanky office where influencers like Zion Clark, an athlete who was born without legs, is seen pumping iron and Olivia Sui, a Chinese-American actress, tells viewers that there are over “30 million creators” on Captiv8’s marketplace to “discover.”

But that’s just a “staged advertisement,” according to a source, who said Capitv8’s real office is a small space in San Mateo that can accommodate about a dozen staffers. Most of the company’s 100-odd employees work remotely.

Captiv8 appears to have returned to “business as usual” following the initial panic set off by the Mulvaney crisis, according to the source.

Bud Light parent Anheuser-Busch InBev, which also didn’t respond to requests for comment, has been tight-lipped on the origins of the ill-fated Mulvaney campaign. The company placed two executives — Alissa Heinerscheid, the vice president of marketing, and her boss, Daniel Blake — on leave in April.

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