Culture

Bloomingdale’s Is Really Sorry About That Date Rape Holiday Ad

CREDIT: Imgur

“Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.”

That’s the tagline on an advertisement from Bloomingdale’s. It ran in the department store’s holiday catalog.

What to do with this stunning suggestion? Where does one start with the bad? What could possibly be a reasonable explanation for this terrifically ill-conceived copy? It’s like someone was listening to “Baby, it’s cold outside” and, when the girl sings, “Say, what’s in this drink?” they thought, now there’s an idea for an ad campaign!

To start, there’s the body language, with our Robin Thicke doppleganger leering across the way at a woman who is laughing and looking in the opposite direction. She sure seems distracted, bro! Don’t miss your window!

Then there’s the whole “you should definitely drug someone at a Christmas party” directive, pretty horrifying in its own right. And at last there is the emphasis — which is there in the original Bloomingdale’s copy — that the victim of this not-so-random act of aggression should be your best friend.

I’m sorry, I don’t want to have to do this, I hate trotting these stats out as much as the average person surely hates the fact that they are true, but here they are: Approximately 80 percent of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, and 47 percent of rapists are a friend or acquaintance of the victim.

This information is not hidden away, waiting to be examined and brought to light (like, say, the DNA evidence in hundreds of thousands of still-untested rape kits in the United States.) This is easily Google-able stuff. So one presumes the creatives behind this Bloomingdale’s ad didn’t attempt to seek out this information, probably because — how about we get wild with these guesses, here — no one who green-lit this copy thought the behavior being described was criminal.

It makes you think, doesn’t it? What ideas did they reject before landing on this one? “When she’s blackout and under the mistletoe, make your move!” “Girls who sit on Santa’s lap will say yes to anything.” “If she’s wearing a sweater, she wants to be Cosbyed.”

Speaking of which: You would think that, if a corporation were ever going to get behind an ad campaign that tells men to slip a little something in their female friends’ drinks, it would not be during this particular holiday season. In the past year, the number of women accusing Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct has climbed to over 50, and the overwhelming majority of their stories begin the same way: He offered his alleged victims a drink that clearly had been drugged.

In a deposition made public this summer, Cosby admitted to having purchased quaaludes with the intent of giving them to women he wanted to have sex with; it was in the aftermath of that revelation that a number of institutions officially cut ties with the comedian.

Once the ad found its way from the glossy pages of the Bloomingdale’s holiday catalog to the ever-vigilant internet, the backlash began and, right on cue, Bloomingdale’s issued an apology.


The incident calls to mind the Budweiser “Up For Whatever” campaign that ran earlier this year. In April, a Bud Light label that read “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night” went viral. Francine Katz, a former Anheuser-Busch executive (she resigned in 2008 and went on to sue the company for sexual discrimination lawsuit against the company) told the Washington Post that having more women in leadership positions could have prevented the flub. The wording, she said, “demonstrates a complete lack of sensitivity.”

But Alexander Lambrecht, vice president of Bud Light, disagreed: “Both women and men reviewed the scrolls internally, and we just missed it. You don’t have to be female to recognize the issues with this scroll. It just shouldn’t have run.”

Bloomingdale’s has above-average female representation at the top. As the Post reports, the majority of managers at its parent company, Macy’s Inc., are women, as are nearly half of Bloomingdale’s board members.