Is The Advertising Standards Authority Drunk?

Brewdog once again shows that there is no need to pay for advertising when the self-proclaimed authority can be conned into doing the job for you.

Today’s latest headline-grabbing stunt from Brewdog  – assuming that the company’s long line of haters could be correct in their assertation that the ‘sole complainant’ about their latest provocative promotional campaign to the ever-humourless Advertising Standards Authority (which, as we must remind people every time we discuss it, is not a legally-authorised authority at all) is in fact a Brewdog employee looking to whip up free publicity for the company – has certainly been successful in its aims. Let’s be fair – even if the complaint didn’t come from Brewdog HQ, someone somewhere was going to complain that the company’s tongue-in-cheek retooling of a very old joke about fruit beer. The company promoted its latest offerings – Lost In Guava, Pineapple Punch, and Lost In Lychee & Lime – as being “one of your five a day” on a promotional email, referencing the entirely made-up* UK government advice about how much fruit and veg a person should consume each day. There are plenty of people out there – the prohibitionist lobby, for one – who live for making ‘official’ complaints about alcohol whenever it oversteps the mark in terms of promotion.

While Brewdog’s many enemies – and yes, we know that they are self-publicising hypocrites with dubious work practice accusations hurled at them, so no need to chime in with that information, thank you – have focused on the company using the ASA for free publicity (very successfully – there are a lot of news stories today about this latest slap-down), perhaps the point ought to be: why do the ASA make this possible in the first place? Why should a single complaint be enough for them not only to swing into action investigating but also then uphold, often claiming ‘widespread offence’ as the justification? If the system is being gamed, then fair enough – it’s a ludicrous system that treats the general public as though they are all hard of thinking.

You’d think that the ASA would know by now that their stupid and condescending system is open to being manipulated by publicity-hungry companies that don’t see a judgement against them as some sort of scarlet letter. Nevertheless, drunk on their own self-importance, they carry on regardless. Let’s look at the ruling in this case.

“The ASA acknowledged that the subject heading ‘one of your five a day’ might be interpreted by some consumers as a humorous nod to the fruit-flavoured beers featured in the body of the email. However, because the claim referred to well-known government advice on health and wellbeing, we considered that, in general, consumers would not expect advertisers to include such claims unless the advertised product was recognised as meeting the requirements of that advice. We therefore considered consumers were likely to interpret the claim ‘one of your five a day’ to mean that the fruit-flavoured beers in the ad’s body copy counted towards the recommended five daily portions of fruit and vegetables.”

I mean, seriously – they have so little respect for the public that they honestly believe that people cannot understand a joke and take everything literally. This is classic ASA – elitist, arrogant, protectionist and out of touch.

Now, I’m not saying that there are not some people out there who are dumb enough to take the claim literally – but not many I suspect and I very much doubt that anyone is dropping that banana that they have been reluctantly forcing down to make up the numbers in favour of a beer. Were customers really ‘likely’ – a phrase that surely suggests a high probability of people rather than the odd moron – to believe a jokey ad claim to be true? I very much doubt it. Then again, I probably have more respect for the intelligence of the average person on the street than the ASA does – and I think that the average person on the street is a cretin.

As ever, the ASA judgement is worthless anyway. In a typically toothless ruling, Brewdog has been told not to use the one-off campaign from July – five months ago – again. The fact that the ASA presumably thinks that this – and the widely circulated news reports reminding people of a beer range that no one outside those still on the Brewdog mailing list saw to begin with – has shown the upstart brewer who is boss. I hope Brewdog did complain about themselves – and that other companies follow suit. If we are stuck with the ASA, businesses should at least use them to their own advantage, using them for promotional purposes while bogging their resources down with pathetically empty complaints.


* It’s long since been revealed that this figure was essentially invented on the spot rather than reached after careful scientific research. More fruit and veg is clearly a good thing but the actual portions were plucked out of the air.

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