Summary of Council decision:
Four issues were investigated, of which all four were Upheld.
A TV ad promoting beer featured three main stories shown in slow motion and set to the chorus of “Climb Ev'ry Mountain” with the lyrics "climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, 'til you find your dream".
The ad opened on a summer barbeque where the host, covered in soot and sweating profusely, was shown tending a large drum barbeque. It then cut to a young man nervously approaching the door of a house, holding a bunch of flowers. The next shot was of a woman sitting in an office filled with stacks of paper, continually feeding the paper into a small shredding machine. A colleague then entered with more stacks of paper. The ad cut back to the young man outside the front door. As the door opened, an older man was shown standing at the entrance and clenching his fist, and the young man waved to a young woman on the stairs behind the older man. The ad then cut to the young man and the older man in the living room with the older man eyeing the young man suspiciously, and the young man looking nervous. The ad returned to the office where a clock was shown turning slowly to 6 pm. The woman smiled and turned to retrieve her bag, as stacks of paper started to swirl around her. The ad next cut to the barbeque host, who dropped the lid onto the barbeque and set off purposefully in the direction of the beer cooler. The ad briefly cut back to the woman running from her office trailed by shredded paper, and then to the barbeque host crawling under a trampoline to make his way through the garden. It then cut back to the house, where the young woman was shown bringing two bottles of beer into the living room. It cut back to the barbeque host, who was shown jumping into an ice bucket. It then cut back to the young man and the older man who touched the two bottles of beer together, before a fish tank behind them burst, sending water gushing into the room as they started to laugh. The ad cut back to the barbeque host emerging from the ice bucket cooler, holding aloft a bottle of beer. It then cut to the inside of a pub. The woman from the office was shown taking a drink from a beer glass while the beer taps in the background exploded, showering the patrons. It then cut back to the young man and the older man laughing hysterically at each other as the water continued to rush towards them. The ad finally cut back to the barbeque host opening a bottle of beer and taking a drink. He raised the beer up and the ice cooler rose from the ground with water gushing over the sides. On-screen text stated "LET THERE BE BEER".
The Alcohol Concern Youth Alcohol Advertising Council challenged whether the ad:
1. implied that alcohol could contribute to an individual's popularity or confidence;
2. implied that drinking alcohol was a key component of social success and that the success of a social occasion depended on the presence or consumption of alcohol;
3. portrayed alcohol as indispensable, as taking priority in life and implied that drinking could overcome problems; and
4. implied that alcohol had therapeutic qualities and portrayed it as capable of changing mood and behaviour.
The Coalition of UK Brewers, which comprised ABInBev, Carlsberg UK, Heineken UK, Miller Brands UK and Molson Coors Brewing Company (UK) Ltd, explained that the ad was meant to be an exaggerated interpretation of the real world, as evidenced by the beer taps exploding in the bar, the fish tank exploding and the man jumping into an ice cooler, disappearing and springing into the sky. The intention of the ad was to celebrate the role that beer can play in life, but in a light-hearted, amusing way that would allow the viewer to draw a distinction between real-life situations and events, and the highly unrealistic scenes and outcomes portrayed throughout the ad.
1. With regard to the barbeque host, the Coalition of UK Brewers said that he was raised aloft because of his important role as the barbeque chef, and the hard work he had clearly put into the role, as evidenced by him sweating and being covered in soot. They did not believe that the images suggested that the beer contributed to his confidence or popularity, only to his refreshment.
The Coalition of UK Brewers felt that in the storyline involving the woman at work, the beer represented a reward at the end of a hard day in the office. They said her friends were pleased to see her and she was pleased to be out of the office rather than being pleased because she had a beer.
Regarding the young man meeting his girlfriend's father, the Coalition of UK Brewers stated that while the young man was depicted as uncomfortable arriving at the house and waiting with the father for the young woman to get ready, the situation improved when she re-joined them, and when she invited them to share a drink, this provided an opportunity for the young man to leave the awkwardness of the sofa. The Coalition of UK Brewers pointed out that no actual consumption was shown and the beer was part of, but not central to, the evolution of the narrative.
Clearcast felt that there was nothing in the storylines of the man tending to a barbeque and the young woman in the office that implied that alcohol could contribute to an individual's popularity or confidence. With regard to the storyline involving the young man meeting his girlfriend's father, they felt it was the appearance of the girlfriend, not the alcohol, which diffused the discomfiture of the boyfriend. They cited the fact that the young man had not drunk from the bottle when he clinked bottles with the father as evidence of this.
2. The Coalition of UK Brewers thought that the exaggerated and surreal storylines were such that viewers would not make any direct associations with alcohol and social success. They said that it was not uncommon for alcohol to be consumed in any of the situations portrayed in the ad.
They explained that each story in the ad had its own key driver, and the presence of beer was portrayed as a choice of beverage and was not the determining factor in any of the storylines. They said the barbeque host was seeking refreshment in response to the trial of cooking at the hot barbeque. The young woman in the bar after work was meeting friends, and the bar was depicted as lively from the beginning, and therefore the Coalition of UK Brewers believed there was nothing to suggest that the atmosphere changed after the introduction of alcohol. They also stated that the young man and father characters touching glasses and laughing was intended as a retort to the formality and pomp that might be associated with having a glass of wine, reflecting the intention of the ad, which was to identify situations where beer might be a credible alternative to other drinks. They believed that this scene depicted alcohol as a responsible social lubricant, rather than a key component of social success.
Clearcast also believed that there was nothing in the storyline of the man tending to a barbeque that implied drinking alcohol was a key component of social success or that the success of a social occasion depended on the presence or consumption of alcohol. They felt that in the subplot featuring the woman in the office, there was nothing to indicate that alcohol was the cause of the lively social scene depicted in the bar. Regarding the young man, girlfriend and father storyline, Clearcast considered the girlfriend's reappearance after an absence to get ready to be the cause of the improved atmosphere in the house, rather than the alcohol.
3. The Coalition of UK Brewers stated that the ad did not show the barbeque chef presenting a platter of perfectly barbequed food to his guests nor the mountain of paperwork disappearing from the young lady's desk. They thought it therefore did not suggest that their performance was improved by alcohol or that alcohol helped them to overcome problems.
They explained that the ad was intended to portray scenes where beer could be enjoyed and where the desired outcome of drinking was refreshment and reward, for example, after a long day tending to a hot barbeque or after facing the prospect of spending time alone with the father of a girlfriend for the first time. They therefore felt that the ad did not suggest that beer was an indispensible or essential part of life.
Clearcast noted that the part of the ad involving the barbeque chef depicted guests with food, and therefore they believed it clearly showed that he was getting a beer as a refreshment after all of his hard work, rather than using the alcohol to escape from personal problems or responsibilities. They felt that the woman was shown to be eager to meet her friends in the bar at the end of a hard day's work, but as she did not leave the office until the clock turned to 6 pm, she was not shown to be leaving her work responsibilities. In the storyline of the ad involving the young man and his girlfriend's father, they felt that there was nothing to indicate that the young man was escaping or overcoming any emotional problems.
4. The Coalition of UK Brewers stated that the man tending to the barbeque went from being hot and bothered to being cool and refreshed after emerging from the ice cooler because of the cold water as well as the refreshment offered by the beer. They also pointed out that the mood of the young woman at work was shown to improve when she left the office at the end of the working day, which was before any alcohol was consumed. They said that as the storyline of the young man and his girlfriend's father progressed, they appeared more relaxed in each other's company after spending more time together. They felt that it was clear that a period of time elapsed before the beer was introduced, during which other happenings or discussions would have occurred. Therefore, they felt that alcohol was only one factor that contributed in the development of the storyline.
Clearcast felt that in each storyline featured in the ad, alcohol was not the cause of changing moods or behaviour. They said that in the storyline featuring the barbeque chef, the alcohol was a source of refreshment and nothing further. In the storyline featuring the young woman, they felt that the end of the working day was the mood changer. Finally, in the storyline involving the young man and his girlfriend's father, the young man's expression changed at the sight of his girlfriend reappearing, implying that she was the reason for the mood change.
The ASA considered that, on balance, the broad impression created by the storyline featuring the barbeque host was of beer being sought for refreshment, rather than it being a source of popularity or confidence. We noted that the host was raised aloft whilst raising a beer at the end of the ad, which we considered could be seen as demonstrating a new found popularity or confidence as a result of the beer, but was likely to be seen as a reflection of the importance assigned to him as the host. Similarly, we considered there was no implication that the woman at work became more popular as a result of consuming alcohol. We noted that the woman seemed happy and confident as soon as she left work, which continued when she reached the bar.
However, we deemed that the storyline where the young man met his girlfriend's father could be considered to imply that alcohol contributed to his popularity and confidence. We noted that the attitude of the young man changed considerably once his girlfriend presented two bottles of beer. He instantly became animated, confident and visibly at ease, and the father character's reaction to him similarly transformed from hostility to approval. We noted that this was the only subplot in which the characters were not actually shown to drink beer, as well as the Coalition of UK Brewers’ and Clearcast's assertion that it was the reappearance of the girlfriend character, rather than the alcohol, that affected the young man's demeanour. However, we noted that once the girlfriend had presented the beers, she did not feature again in the ad and therefore was unlikely to be seen as the main reason for the sudden popularity and confidence of the young man.
On this point, the ad breached BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society.
(Responsible advertising) and
Advertisements must neither imply that alcohol can contribute to an individual's popularity or confidence nor imply that alcohol can enhance personal qualities
With regard to the storyline of the barbeque host, we noted the Coalition of UK Brewers’ argument that beer was portrayed as his personal choice of beverage, and on balance, we considered that viewers would believe that the main reason for him drinking was more likely to be for the purpose of refreshment and reward after cooking at a hot barbeque, rather than social success. We considered that the success of the social occasion in that subplot of the ad was not dependent on the presence or the consumption of alcohol.
In the case of the woman leaving work to go to a bar, we noted that each person in her group of friends at the bar was shown holding a wine glass, a pint glass or a beer bottle. However, we also noted that, until the beer taps exploded, the scene was typical of a lively social occasion. We considered that this scene did not imply that drinking alcohol was a key component of social success or that the success of the social occasion was dependent on the presence or the consumption of alcohol.
However, regarding the social event of the young man meeting his girlfriend's father, we considered that although the reintroduction of the girlfriend character may have eased the tension between the two men, again, due to her disappearance after presenting the men with beer bottles, the introduction of alcohol was likely to be seen as a key component of social success and the success of the occasion.
On this point, the ad breached BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Responsible advertising) and 19.4 19.4 Advertisements must not imply that drinking alcohol is a key component of social success or acceptance or that refusal is a sign of weakness. Advertisements must not imply that the success of a social occasion depends on the presence or consumption of alcohol. (Alcohol).
We considered that the lyrics of the music to which the ad was set, coupled together with the content of the ad and the product being advertised, could be interpreted as referring to problems (the “mountain”) to which beer (the "dream") could be the solution. We looked at each of the three subplots.
With regard to the subplot concerning the barbeque host, we noted the scene portrayed the host as being unbearably hot, sweating and covered in soot as a result of cooking food for his guests. We considered his path to the water cooler containing the beer, which showed him going to great lengths to avoid his guests in order to get to the beer, could be seen as an indication of him escaping his responsibility of cooking. We also noted that once he left the barbeque, jumped into the water cooler containing the beer and emerged holding a beer aloft, he appeared to be happy and carefree. Whilst his mood change was likely to be seen as a result of refreshment offered by the water, we considered that the beer, and his delight in holding it aloft, was likely to be seen as more than just refreshment and reward, but also as a solution to his problem of being hot and uncomfortable. We therefore considered this subplot implied that drinking alcohol could overcome problems, and we concluded it breached the Code.
In the storyline depicting the woman at work, we observed that as soon as the clock turned 6 pm, the stacks of paper at her desk began to swirl around her as she smiled and ran down the corridor, next appearing in the bar drinking from a glass of beer. We appreciated that the clock turning 6 pm indicated that she had finished work for the day, and we considered that, as the woman went to join a group of friends in the bar, it could be interpreted that she was eager to see her friends, rather than to drink alcohol to escape her vast workload. However, we noted that she was shown drinking beer rather than talking to her friends, and therefore we considered alcohol was presented as a form of escape. Consequently, we considered alcohol was depicted as a solution to the problem of a large workload. We concluded the ad breached the Code.
In the case of the subplot of the young man meeting his girlfriend's father, we noted Clearcast's comment that there was no indication the young man was escaping or overcoming any emotional problems. However, we also noted the young man's evident lack of success in impressing his girlfriend's father and the difficult situation in which this placed him. We considered that the young man's potential failure to impress his girlfriend's father could be seen as a problem that needed to be overcome, and he appeared to be using alcohol to escape. We considered this subplot implied that drinking could overcome problems, given that he appeared more at ease and on more friendly terms with the father once he had a beer. We therefore concluded the ad breached the Code.
On this point, the ad breached BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Responsible advertising) and 19.7 19.7 Advertisements must not portray alcohol as indispensable or as taking priority in life. Advertisements must not imply that drinking can overcome problems or that regular solitary drinking is acceptable (Alcohol).
With regard to the subplot featuring the barbeque host, we observed that the mood of the host changed to one of elation at the end of the ad when he emerged from the water cooler, thrusting a beer into the air. While we acknowledged that his mood changed after the appearance of the beer, we considered it changed before any alcohol had been consumed, and due to the fact that he had previously been shown sweating and covered in soot, it was reasonable to infer that this was as a result of being immersed in water from the water cooler, rather than solely as a result of drinking alcohol.
Regarding the scenario of the woman finishing work, we acknowledged that as soon as the clock turned to 6 pm, the woman's mood altered considerably, and she continued to smile throughout the rest of the ad. We considered this could be attributed to her going to the bar to drink alcohol, but was more likely to be a reflection of her joy at finishing work for the day and going to join her friends, as evidenced by the fact that her mood did not change once she consumed the beer.
In the storyline featuring the young man and his girlfriend's father, we noted that until the beers were produced by the daughter character, the young man's behaviour had been nervous, awkward and uncomfortable. Once the beers were produced, his behaviour changed considerably and he appeared calm and confident, seeming to tell jokes and laugh hysterically with the man he had previously been visibly nervous of. We acknowledged that throughout the ad, whenever the young man was shown interacting with his girlfriend he was perceptibly happier, but again noted the absence of the young woman once the men had the beers. We disagreed with the Coalition of UK Brewers’ comment that a period of time had clearly elapsed in between the young woman leaving to get ready and returning with the beers and that this contributed to the men's growing ease with each other. We considered that the implication was that the beer was responsible for the change of mood and behaviour.
On this point, the ad breached BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Responsible advertising) and 19.8 19.8 Advertisements must not imply that alcohol has therapeutic qualities. Alcohol must not be portrayed as capable of changing mood, physical condition or behaviour or as a source of nourishment. Although they may refer to refreshment, advertisements must not imply that alcohol can improve any type of performance. (Alcohol).
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form.