A radio ad, for a beer, heard in December 2011, included a male character, who gave a motivational-style speech during which other male characters cheered. He stated "... gentlemen, there is nothing special about tonight ... tonight is underrated. Tonight is free of expectation. Tonight you cannot be disappointed, it's just another night. That's why tonight could be the greatest night of your life. Because it's on nights like tonight that you end up at a party and you don't know a single person who's carrying you on their shoulders. It's on nights like tonight when you wanna bring your passport, just in case. Gentlemen, you were conceived on a night like tonight. So tonight, before going out for that ice cold Budweiser, you put in that extra two minutes in front of the mirror. Because you never know who you're going to meet ... So raise your bottles of Budweiser high in the air and make a toast to tonight. Now get out there, great times are waiting. Say it with me now ...". The characters all chanted "Grab some Buds". A voice-over stated "… for the facts, drinkaware.co.uk. Please drink Budweiser responsibly."
The complainant challenged whether the ad linked alcohol to sexual success.
AB InBev UK Ltd (InBev) said they were fully committed to the responsible marketing of their products. They said Budweiser advertising in the UK drew upon the commonly attributed American values of optimism, free-spiritedness and a positive attitude. They said Budweiser believed that an optimistic outlook and 'can-do' approach to life could bring about the sharing of great times with friends. The radio ad was part of that tradition and was designed to capture the spirit of anticipation.
They said the character giving the speech was inspired by the typical American football coach popularised in many American films and TV shows. He was a man in charge of a team of players, responsible for their performance on the pitch but with a keen interest in their welfare off it. InBev said his tone of voice was rousing but also wise and caring. They said the scene in the ad resembled a crowded locker room during the half-time break of a tense game but it could be anywhere a group of friends were gathered discussing what to do next. The speaker was determined to impart to his listeners that a positive attitude to life would increase their chances of enjoying each others' company, of sharing great times with friends that evening. He did that with gusto and light humour, explaining that while there was nothing in particular to distinguish that night from any other, that should not deter the group from embracing the opportunity of great times shared by friends. InBev said that, crucially, it was those evenings, otherwise free from expectation, which could most easily be enriched by a free-spirited positive attitude.
InBev said that, importantly, there were only two references to alcohol in the ad, which came towards the very end of the coach's speech. The references to Budweiser were independent of the messages delivered in the coach's speech and neither reference was so strong as to directly link its consumption to sexual success or activity, nor did they imply that the consumption of alcohol was essential. They said the first reference to alcohol was entirely incidental; the drinking of Budweiser may or may not feature in the evening ahead and it was not linked to the perceived success of the evening either in a social or sexual context. The second reference was to non-contentious behaviour associated with alcohol; using it as an accompaniment to a toast. The speaker toasted the prospect of 'tonight' and at no point did he state or imply that the consumption of alcohol would improve the evening or the sexual success of his group of listeners. The group then cheered at his message, motivated by the thought of sharing an enjoyable evening together. InBev firmly believed that the target audience would appreciate that Budweiser might be consumed during a night out with friends in a wide variety of social activities but that the ad did not suggest that the consumption of alcohol would result in sexual success, sexual activity or enhanced attractiveness. They strongly believed the ad complied with the Code.
The RACC said the ad's message was about going out with a positive attitude rather than a message about going out and drinking or drinking being linked with sexual activity, sexual success, seduction or enhanced attractiveness. The ad was one in a series that focused on having 'the night of your life', which was deliberately 'bigged up' and described in a consciously exaggerated manner for dramatic effect. They did not believe there was any link between alcohol and sexual success.
The ASA noted the ad was intended to capture a positive attitude and enjoyment of time spent with friends. We considered, however, the tone of the ad was such that it was likely to be interpreted as reflecting a sense of anticipation ahead of an evening where alcohol would be drunk. We noted the ad included the references "... before going out for that ice cold Budweiser ...", "... So raise your bottles of Budweiser high in the air and make a toast to tonight ..." and featured the group chanting "Grab some Buds". We also noted the speech-giver encouraged the members of the group to make additional effort in getting ready for the evening, even though there was nothing remarkable about it, by putting "... in that extra two minutes in front of the mirror", because they did not know who they were going to meet. We noted it was suggested that it was on such nights that unexpected and significant events, including conception, could take place. We considered the ad was likely to be understood as suggesting the group was preparing for an evening where alcohol would be drunk and during which the participants would have a great time, including the possibility of meeting a potential sexual partner. We considered the ad linked alcohol to sexual success and therefore concluded that it breached the Code.
The ad breached BCAP Code rule
Advertisements must not link alcohol with sexual activity, sexual success or seduction or imply that alcohol can enhance attractiveness. That does not preclude linking alcohol with romance or flirtation.
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told InBev to ensure their future advertising did not link alcohol to sexual success.