Ad firm behind Bud Light’s Dylan Mulvaney fiasco fires 13 staffers after lavish French trip: sources

The California marketing firm behind Bud Light’s disastrous tie-up with Dylan Mulvaney fired more than a dozen employees — days after top brass boasted about a lavish junket to an award ceremony on the French Riviera, The Post has learned.

San Mateo-based Captiv8 — which The Post exclusively identified as the ad agency behind Anheuser-Busch’s short-lived partnership with the trans influencer — flew executives and guests on a private jet to the annual Cannes-Lions festival in June.

Captiv8 booked the private charter on a boutique French airline called La Compagnie, which features 76 lay-flat seats and a “bespoke plane experience,” according to a press release about the trip.

Upon returning from the marketing industry’s Oscars-like event, CEO Krishna Subramanian offered a recap of their trip during a company-wide Zoom meeting on July 3, multiple sources told The Post.

The presentation allegedly included photos of the giddy travelers aboard the luxury jet, as well as the yachts, pool parties and villas they visited in the South of France.Two days later, however, the “tone-deaf” Subramanian handed out pink slips to 13 workers, about 5% of Captiv8’s more than 200 employees, a Captiv8 employee told The Post.

“They said they were investing in the future of the company and building relationships,” one current worker who survived the purge told The Post, adding, “Maybe they could have saved jobs instead of blowing all of this money” in Cannes.

After the layoffs, Subramanian told remaining staffers on another company-wide Zoom call that the ad agency was “examining budgets” and “evaluating finances,” according to sources.“The timing was terrible,” said one fired employee, who did not want to be identified out of fear of losing their severance package.

“You wouldn’t expect to be laid off after such an extravagant trip.”

“If you get more business in Cannes, then you don’t downsize and cut your manpower,” added the devastated worker, who has young children. The company — which has clients that include McDonald’s, Disney, Toyota, Nordstrom, Macy’s and OceanSpray — said the layoffs represent “less than 5% of our employee base” and that it is “actively hiring for a range of roles.”

The Captiv8 rep told The Post the layoffs were carried out after regular performance reviews.

“We assess the productivity of our employees with regular cadence and these layoffs were part of a continuous strategy that ensures our continued success,” the spokesperson said.“We want to emphasize that these decisions, which were not made lightly, were driven by a strategic assessment of our team with our business priorities in mind, and not by financial challenges.”

The company said the junket was “paid for in tandem with our brand partners and clients, having no impact on the company’s overall bottom line.”

The trip is a “meaningful business development lever for Captiv8,” a spokesperson told The Post.Captiv8 invited influencers including David Dobrik, Josh Richards and Robyn Delmonte (aka Girl Boss Town), along with the chief marketing officers of a number of companies that work with Captiv8, according to insiders and social media posts about the trip.

Passengers were showered with swag that included skin and beauty products, electronics, designer sunglasses and a jeans jacket, along with wine and Champagne, according to social media posts about the trip.

Captiv8 has grown into an award-winning firm by pairing social media influencers with major consumer brands — like it allegedly did when Mulvaney hoisted a can of Bud Light bearing her image in a post to Instagram on April 1.Bud Light’s parent, Anheuser-Busch, has never identified Captiv8 in its public comments about the origins of the campaign, blaming an anonymous third-party marketer for sending the personalized tallboy.

Captiv8 has remained tight-lipped about its work with the brewer.

The backlash and boycotts since Mulvaney touted Bud Light have cost Anheuser-Busch nearly $400 million, according to the beer giant’s quarterly earnings report.The fiasco sent some Captiv8 employees “into serious panic mode” over whether the company would be blamed, insiders had told The Post.

A company spokesperson declined to address the Bud Light campaign and whether Captiv8 connected Anheuser-Busch with Mulvaney.

Now the laid-off employee is panicking about whether there’s a new job available in a tightening labor market.

“I need to keep my head above the water because no one is hiring right now,” the former worker said.Captiv8’s contraction comes amid explosive demand for influencer marketing, which has grown to a $21.1 billion industry in 2023 from $6.1 billion in 2019, according to Influencer Marketing Hub.

More than four in five businesses this year have a standalone budget for influencer marketing.



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