Two Facebook posts for the Buck Inn, a pub in Darlington:
a. The first post, dated 8 September 2017, stated “German Grub Night at The Buck Inn Dont mention ze war!”. The post included an image of a poster titled “german night” with text stating “Set 3 Course Meal Including Popular German Dishes £19.95pp, “Graham Ze Chef”, Don’t Mention Ze War!”. The poster also showed a black and white image depicting a uniformed Nazi soldier performing a Nazi salute with the right arm, and a swastika on the left sleeve. A smiling, caricature-style, sketched image of the face the chef had been superimposed on to the Nazi soldier. The text font of the headline “german night” and colour scheme in the poster also resembled the stylisation and colours typical of Nazi imagery.
b. The second post, dated 12 September 2017, showed that the Buck Inn had updated their Facebook profile picture to an image of a newspaper article about the “german night” poster. The article featured an image of the poster and was titled “Pub’s German night ‘Nazi’ poster criticised”. The Buck Inn had also liked a number of comments by other individuals on their Facebook page in relation to the posts.
Three complainants challenged whether the ads were offensive.
The Buck Inn said that “Dont mention ze war” was a quote from Fawlty Towers and the use of this phrase in the ad, in conjunction with a cartoon image of their chef’s head on a German soldier, was intended to be light hearted and humorous. They said that the poster advertised a German cuisine night and that the design of the ad was inspired by the comedy in this particular episode of Fawlty Towers. They also stated they were not promoting the Nazi party in the ad and it was not intended to mock the Second World War in any way.
The Buck Inn also said that the ad was seen on Facebook by over 500,000 people, and the fact that only three complaints were received indicated most people had interpreted the ad in the way they had intended.
With regard to the Buck Inn liking a number of comments by other individuals on their Facebook page, they said they ‘liked’ every comment by users on their page as they considered that it helped to improve their interaction with consumers on Facebook and that the users would be more likely to see the their future Facebook posts.
The ASA acknowledged the phrase “Don’t mention the war” was a fairly well known quote from the sitcom Fawlty Towers. However, we considered that the use of an image of a Nazi soldier wearing a swastika and performing a Nazi salute to advertise the pub’s German cuisine night, in a humorous tone, was inappropriate and trivialised the events of the Second World War and actions of the German Nazi party. Furthermore, the ad appeared to link German culture intrinsically with Nazi Germany and the war. We therefore considered that ad (a) was likely to cause serious or widespread offense.
We also considered that the Buck Inn’s activity on Facebook in ad (b) trivialised the reported offense that ad (a) was likely to cause, particularly in the use of the newspaper article as a Facebook profile picture. In particular we considered that the Buck Inn’s ‘liking’ of various comments by other users on their Facebook page, many of which contained distasteful jokes and puns in reference to the Holocaust, was also likely to cause serious or widespread offense.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule
Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.
Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. (Harm and offence).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told the Buck Inn to ensure that they did not cause serious or widespread offence by using Nazi references or imagery in their advertising, or by trivialising the events of the Second World War and actions of the German Nazi party. We also told the Buck Inn to ensure that comments made by other users on their Facebook page, which in themselves were likely to cause serious or widespread offense, were not ‘liked’.