Summary of Council decision:
Six issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
A YouTube video, a website and tweet for Beer 52 Ltd, a craft beer subscription club, promoting their Berliner box of craft beers, seen on 3 February 2017:
a. A YouTube Video, on the Beer 52 channel page which lasted 38 minutes, featured a man sampling nine different varieties of craft beer, while sitting alone in a room conversing with an unidentified person who appeared from the point of view of the camera. A young woman, Wilma, an older neighbour, Doris, and a delivery man also appeared at various points and interacted with the protagonist.
b. A website featured the video described in ad (a).
c. A tweet promoted the video described in ad (a).
The complainant challenged whether the ads:
1. irresponsibly encouraged excessive drinking; and
2. was offensive due to the degrading portrayal of women.
The ASA challenged whether:
3. the factual information about the alcoholic strength of a drink had been given undue emphasis; and whether the ads:
4. linked alcohol with seduction and sexual activity;
5. implied that drinking alcohol was a key component of the success of a personal relationship; and
6. featured a person in a significant role who appeared to be under 25 years of age.
Beer52 Ltd stated that they removed the content and all mention of the video from their website and social media following a complaint from a member of the public, as the message of the video had been misunderstood.
They stated that they aimed to promote responsible drinking, the empowerment of women as drinkers and brewers of beer and of the appropriate age limits that were in place on the consumption of beer.
They explained that the video was an art project not used for paid commercial advertising and was created by Grey London and Stink Studios as a satirical spoof. The concept was to poke fun at the stereotypes usually associated with beer advertising, which traditionally had a reputation for being misogynistic, promoting beer as a means of getting drunk instead of a craft product. They explained that Beer Buddy was a hapless presenter of his own beer tasting show who was shown to make many mistakes and was not professional in his behaviour. They stated it was intended as satire; he was not representing the view of their company and they hoped that was clear to anyone watching the video.
1. Beer52 Ltd stated that the Beer Buddy tasted nine beers, but did not finish consuming any of them, except one. They were keen to show their members the tasting notes for each of the beers in their box, so Beer Buddy tasted each of them. They said that in the world of craft beer, it was not usual that a drinker may taste several different beers, consuming a small quantity of each and perhaps sharing a bottle amongst friends. The video used a number of time lapses to suggest that the event did not happen in real time. They accepted the importance of drinking responsibly and said that they would be more cautious of their depiction of beer tasting sessions in future.
2. They stated that Beer Buddy had poor social skills, particularly in relation to his interaction with Wilma. The overall joke of the video was that he was not a good presenter of a beer show, but when Wilma had a chance to describe one of the beers, she did so professionally, flipping the viewer’s perception of the advert from portraying her poorly to being the hero of the show. They said ‘Beer Buddy’ was portrayed poorly, was a strange and lonely character and was rude to everyone he encountered in the video, especially to his elderly neighbour. They viewer was not expected to like or agree with Beer Buddy’s behaviour as the opposite was intended.
3. They stated that they did not intend to overtly promote the consumption of high strength beers and Beer Buddy’s comments were intended as comedy. They stated that they would avoid these types of jokes in the future.
4. They said the penis-shaped bottle opener was not intended to have any real link to sexual activity and was a novelty prop used purely for humour. They stated that Beer Buddy removed his clothes but it was not intended to be sexual or seductive. They stated that the actress who played Wilma was attractive and might have been viewed to have behaved provocatively, but this was intended to be her character and her own sense of humour rather than any link to her consumption of alcohol. They explained that she only tasted a few sips of beer and this did not alter her behaviour. They believed the scene where she licked the beer bottle was intended to be a parody of some beer advertising.
5. They said the Beer Buddy character was lonely and keen to make friends with his viewer to an embarrassingly painful extent. It was not intended to imply alcohol would enhance his social ability or personal relationship with the viewer, but they understood the importance of making this clearer in any future content they produced.
6. They said that it would be clear to most viewers that Wilma was over the age of 25 and they were careful to cast an actress who did appear over 25. They stated that they would bear the rule in mind more closely with any future content.
The ASA acknowledged that a total of nine beers were sampled during the ad, but did not consider viewers would understand that the multiple drinks were being tried solely for a tasting and were, therefore, not being consumed. We noted that Beer52 stated that only one beer was fully consumed. However, we considered that the scenes where the protagonist was shown to empty the can into the glass and drinking large gulps from the bottle in combination with the progressive decline of his behaviour as he consumed more alcohol, gave the overall impression that all nine beers had been fully or mostly consumed during the ad. We therefore concluded that the ad irresponsibly encouraged excessive drinking.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 18.1 (Alcohol).
We considered the portrayal of the female character Wilma, who was presented as the cleaner and lover of the protagonist’s uncle and was told to “piss off” shortly after entering the room, and on the second occasion was told to “fuck off” after providing a plate of snacks for the protagonist. The second female was the protagonist’s elderly neighbour Doris, who was greeted to the room and was mocked by the protagonist as he gesticulated behind her back and abruptly asked her to leave.
We understood that the female characters were treated differently to the male characters featured in the ad and both were insulted by the protagonist. We understood that Beer52 intended to portray Wilma as the “hero” of the show. We considered, however, that she was presented in a stereotypical, two dimensional manner when shown to be performing household tasks while wearing a fitted dress and high heels and being continuously interrupted and demeaned by the protagonist whenever she spoke. We therefore considered that the ad was offensive due to its degrading portrayal of women.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Social responsibility) and 4.1 (Harm and offence).
We noted that there were three instances where the protagonist referred to the strength of the beer, for example an 8.1% beer was referred to for “Dutch courage”, a 4.7% beer was referred to as a “breakfast beer” because of its weaker alcohol content and an 8.5% beer was referred to as a “traditional fighting beer”. We considered that by highlighting the percentage of alcohol present in the beer and commenting on when it could be drunk and how that might have an effect on behaviour demonstrated that undue emphasis had been placed on the alcoholic strength of the beer.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 18.9 (Alcohol).
We acknowledged that Beer52 intended the penis bottle opener to be a novelty prop used for humour. We noted that there were numerous references to seduction and sexual activity used by the protagonist throughout the ad, particularly in the lyrics of the song “Soulmates” which referred to masturbation, and by Wilma when she suggestively licked the neck of the beer bottle. We noted two instances where the protagonist stated “… we can get naked because it’s time for the last beer” and removed his clothes towards the end of the ad and considered this could be understood as a misguided attempt to seduce the viewer. We considered that in the overall context of the ad, alcohol was linked to seduction and sexual activity.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 18.5 (Alcohol).
We understood that the protagonist was keen to build a friendship with the viewer and considered that the repeated references to becoming “soul mates” and “great friends” while consuming the contents of the beer box further emphasised the impression that a relationship would be built between the protagonist and the viewer after drinking. We also noted that as the ad progressed, his demeanour had become more relaxed after consuming alcohol. We therefore concluded that the ad implied that drinking alcohol was intended to be a key component of the success of a personal relationship.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 18.3 (Alcohol).
The CAP Code required that people shown drinking alcohol or playing a significant role in a marketing communication must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25 years of age. We understood that Wilma had stated that she was an exchange student, sampled a bottle of beer during the ad and made a number of appearances throughout the ad, contributing to the narrative. We considered that the Wilma appeared to be younger than 25 years of age and, as she played a significant role, concluded that the ad was in breach of the Code.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 18.16 (Alcohol).
We acknowledged that the ad was removed from the advertiser’s website and YouTube. We told Beer52 Ltd to ensure that their future advertising was socially responsible and was in line with the requirements of the Alcohol and other sections of the advertising codes.