ASA Adjudication on Shepherd Neame Ltd
Shepherd Neame Ltd
17 Court Street
25 October 2006
Number of complaints:
J Walter Thompson
An ad for Bishops Finger Kentish Ale that appeared in Time Out featured an image of a woman in a low-cut mediaeval costume sitting provocatively on a bale of hay. Headline text stated “I love a good session on the Bishops Finger”. In the bottom right corner of the ad, text below an image of a bottle of Bishops Finger Kentish Ale stated “At 5.4% it’s near the knuckle”.
1. The complainant thought the image and text were offensive to women.
The Authority challenged:
2. whether the headline text I" love a good session on the Bishops Finger" encouraged excessive drinking,
3. whether the image and text linked alcohol and sexual activity and
4. whether the text "At 5.4% its near the knuckle" implied that the drink was preferred because of its high alcohol content.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
Shepherd Neame Ltd (Shepherd Neame) said they had intended the ad to adhere to the CAP Code in the spirit and the letter. They said they did not plan to use the ad again.
1. They said they had conducted qualitative research among men and women when preparing the ad and the ad had been very well received by both. Respondents had found the humour conventional and inoffensive. They had found the innuendo in the phrase "I love a good session on the Bishops Finger" acceptable, and many had expected it because the product's name was felt to be strongly suggestive. Respondents compared the image of the woman in mediaeval costume to similar images in historical comedies such as the Carry On films and Blackadder. Shepherd Neame said they had shown the campaign to publishers before placing the ad and had asked whether the ad was considered appropriate for the target audience of each publication. They said publishers had unanimously agreed to run the ad. Shepherd Neame argued that previous consumer research had also confirmed that innuendo was a recognised and accepted element of the products brand identity. They did not believe that the ad would cause serious or widespread offence.
2. Shepherd Neame argued that the text "I love a good session on the Bishops Finger" did not encourage excessive drinking but used innuendo to play on the humorous resonance of the products name.
3. Shepherd Neame believed the image and text were playful references to the products name and did not link alcohol with seduction, sexual activity or sexual success.
4. Shepherd Neame said they had not intended to suggest that their product should be preferred because of its high alcohol content. Because Bishops Finger was a stronger than average ale, they said they had deliberately devised its advertising to be humorously stronger than the average, that is 'near the nuckle'. They said their research did not show that the text would encourage people to drink more, and argued that the text "At 5.4% its near the knuckle" was a playful reference to the products name and strength.
1. Not upheld
The ASA noted that Shepherd Neame had researched the ad using male and female respondents. We considered that the image was mild and that readers were likely to see both the image and the headline text "I love a good session on the Bishops Finger" as light-hearted and playful references to the products name and brand identity. We concluded that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to women.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code clause 5.1 (Decency), but did not find it in breach.
2. Not upheld
We noted that the headline text "I love a good session on the Bishops Finger" used suggestive language to play on the connotations of the products brand name. We considered that the tone of the ad was likely to be seen as light-hearted and would not encourage readers to drink excessively.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code clause 56.4 (Alcoholic drinks), but did not find it in breach.
We considered that the text "I love a good session on the Bishops Finger" played on the connotations of drinking and sexual activity. We considered that the woman's pose was suggestive and concluded that, in combination with the headline text, it was likely to be seen as linking alcohol with seduction and sexual activity.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code clause 56.9 (Alcoholic drinks).
4. Not upheld
We considered that the text "At 5.4% it's near the knuckle" was likely to be seen by readers as a playful reference to the product's name. We concluded that the ad did not imply the product should be preferred because of its high alcohol content.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code clause 56.10 (Alcoholic drinks), but did not find it in breach.
We told Shepherd Neame to adopt an approach, in future, that did not link alcohol with sexual activity and seduction.