Cougar Bourbon’s Message: Queers, Straight(en) Up.

CougarOUTinPerth contributor Claire Alexander shares her opinion on the latest advertising campaign from Cougar Bourbon. 

Driving around the ‘gaybourhood’, you may have noticed a billboard that advertises Cougar Bourbon. It depicts a man in an orange ice-dancing leotard, with the caption “Yes. You do look ridiculous. Cougar Bourbon. Straight up.”

Working on the proviso, albeit stupidly, that we have evolved to a place where we can at least depend on advertising agencies to pander to the LGBTQI community for our ‘disposable incomes’, I couldn’t make sense of the advertisement at all.

Then I realised that there is no sense to be made. It’s blatantly homophobic. Queerphobic. Genderphobic.

Avid ally and community supporter Deborah Elkes expressed her concern to Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) via email, and promptly received a reply that informed her… “While we acknowledge that this advertisement will not be to everyone’s personal taste, the ad has been through a stringent approval process prior to release.”

This is problematic in itself. The fact that the ad went through an elaborate approval process without anyone pointing out how offensive it is only reflects an ignorance and insensitivity within that process towards LGBTQI people. It is a process that should probably, at this point, be reviewed.

In a campaign brief, released by CUB, the company claims that “The Cougar drinker isn’t into showiness, they’re a pretty down-to-earth person who prefers when you just say it how it is – it’s what we call living life Straight Up.” Interpret that whatever way you will, but in this context, especially coupled with the image, you can’t escape the not-so-hidden meaning: be a man, a straight man at that, and do not let your gender deviate from the norm.

If CUB wants to reinforce rigid gender roles, and make a laughingstock out of men who dare to wear orange, be artistic, or enjoy themselves authentically, I hope that all such men (and their allies) will boycott CUB’s beverages (including the iconic VB and ‘girly’ Pure Blonde).

Regarding the advertisement, local drag performer Scarlet Adams commented (and I wholeheartedly agree), “… That costume is flawless! Not at all ridiculous. The slogan should read; “YASSS. YOU DO LOOK ELITE” ~Cougar Bourbon Get it Gurl~ …”

Offensive advertising that utilizes gender stereotyping is not new to us. Smiths Chips are espousing “One up MAN chip”, and Lynx is forever telling men how to perform masculinity. I thought we were beyond campaigns as boring and regressive as these. It’s time for campaigns to strive to be actually smart and witty, instead of basing their core idea on policing people’s gender.

Claire Alexander

Full disclosure, I am totally biased. As an out queer around town who makes a living from photographing drag queens, it’s hardly a surprise that this offends and saddens me. But the truth is, my feelings represent thousands of others in Perth—those who don’t fit the heteronormative mould.

Cougar were contacted for comment. 

Join the conversation on twitter: @clairexander @outinperth with the hashtag #CUBStraightUp.