Coopers Brewery has distanced itself from a Bible Society ad featuring two Liberal politicians debating marriage equality, saying it did not sponsor or approve of the campaign, despite evidence to the contrary.
But the Bible Society says the ad will be "amended" after a backlash and a social media campaign to boycott Coopers.
The new 'Keeping It Light' campaign from the Bible Society sees Liberal MPs Tim Wilson and Andrew Hastie sitting at a Parliament House cafe, talking about same-sex marriage. It features some gratuitous, close-up shots of Coopers' Premium Light beer throughout, and spruiks Wilson as being "for same-sex marriage" and Hastie as being "for traditional marriage".
The ad features a glimpse of the beer in basically every shot, and there is an open Bible on the table in front of the moderator between Hastie and Wilson, from which the moderator reads aloud. The campaign was met with immediate backlash when it first surfaced widely over the weekend, with criticisms of government MPs participating in what seemed to be a native advertising campaign for an alcohol company, as well as the clear religious overtones of the campaign. A #BoycottCoopers hashtag even emerged on Twitter, leading the brewer to issue not one, but two statements on the matter.
"With regards to the 'Keeping it Light' video from the Bible Society featuring Andrew Hastie and Tim Wilson, this is a light hearted but balanced debate about an important topic within Australia," one statement read.
"Coopers isn't trying to push religious messages or change your beliefs by celebrating 200 years of charitable work undertaken by the Bible Society, in fact, over the years we have produced a number of different celebratory cans to recognise the historical achievements of a vast array of different organisations."
An additional statement looked to put distance between the brewer and the Bible Society, and was tweeted by Coopers' official Twitter.
We would like to release the following statement with regards to the video published by The Bible Society https://t.co/MmDcq6TnUR— Coopers Brewery (@coopersbrewery) March 12, 2017
"We want you to know that Coopers did not give permission for our Premium Light beer to feature in, or 'sponsor' the Bible Society's 'Keeping it Light' video featuring Andrew Hastie and Tim Wilson," the second statement said.
"We respect the beliefs of our community and do not wish to try and change them."
The claims that Coopers did not sponsor or agree to the ad seem to be in conflict with material posted on the Bible Society's website, where the society says it "teamed up with Coopers Premium Light to ask Australians to try 'Keeping it Light'."
Coopers: we did not give permission for our beer to be in the Bible Society ad— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) March 12, 2017
Bible Society: we teamed up with Coopers... pic.twitter.com/6zsqkCgmGr
The ending of the ad features the trio saying "thank you to the Coopers family" and the closing credits have superimposed images of Coopers beer cans in every single shot. HuffPost Australia contacted Coopers for more comment, but the Bible Society said they had decided to amend the ad after further conversations between the two organisations.
"After a conversation between our CEO Greg Clarke and Coopers' Managing Director Tim Cooper, the video is now being amended along with some related wording on our website," a spokesman said.
"However, the "Keep it Light" campaign will certainly continue with the view to reaching a new audience for Bible Society Australia. That audience is people who enjoy a light beer who don't normally read the Bible, or people who haven't otherwise heard of Bible Society."
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