A TV ad for Old Specked Hen beer featured a fox puppet sitting at the bar of a pub, dressed in a tweed sports coat and a cravat. He said, "Now we Brits have some strange customs but it strikes me as odd that at Easter we search for chocolate eggs hidden by a giant bunny". A man in a white rabbit costume walked in, removed the head of his costume and put it on the bar. The fox continued, "Well, I prefer the usual to the unusual so I'll skip the eggs and go straight for the hen". Turning to the rabbit head he said "Cheers Big Ears!".
One complainant, who saw the ad during coverage of a Premier League match on Sky Sports 1 at around 18.00 on Sunday 13 April, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and breached the Code, because they believed the fox character would appeal strongly to children.
Greene King Brewing and Retailing Ltd said the character 'Henry the Fox' had been the voice of the Old Speckled Hen brand since 1994 and the current television campaign had run for over three years without complaint. They said the character was designed and used in a way that appealed to mature adults, mainly their core target of 45- to 54-year-olds. They said the ad used intelligent, highbrow humour and dry wit, which was unlikely to appeal to children.
Clearcast said when the use of a fox puppet was first suggested for Old Speckled Hen ads, they considered very carefully whether it would appeal strongly to children and decided the fox character was designed in a way that would appeal to mature adults. They noted that the fox had a male adult voice and considered that his demeanour, humour and dress would appeal to adults rather than children. They also considered that puppets were not exclusively associated with children and children's humour.
With regard to this ad specifically, they considered the fox was very adult in appearance and manner, and noted he was not accompanied by any pantomime-like actions, which often accompanied children's puppets and characters. They also cited the adult phrases he used, such as "… we Brits" and his dismissal of the Easter tradition of finding chocolate eggs as evidence that the character was unlikely to appeal to children.
The BCAP Code stated that alcohol ads must not be likely to appeal strongly to people under 18 years of age, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture or showing adolescent or juvenile behaviour. The ASA acknowledged that talking puppets were often used in programmes and films that were targeted towards children. However, we considered that, in this instance, the fox character's behaviour, dress and appearance were aimed towards adults. We noted that the voice of the fox clearly sounded like an older man, and that the character's language and deadpan delivery were unlikely to appeal to children. We also considered that the setting of the ad in a pub and the inclusion of a man who was dressed as the Easter bunny removing his costume's head in the background further emphasised the overall adult tone of the ad. We therefore concluded that the ad was not irresponsible and was unlikely to appeal strongly to under 18-year-olds.
We investigated the ad under BCAP rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Compliance) and 19.15.1 19.15.1 be likely to appeal strongly to people under 18, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture or showing adolescent or juvenile behaviour (Alcohol), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.