Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A TV ad for Heineken beer featured a man on a remote island who received tickets for the Champions League Final at Wembley. The man grabbed two bottles of Heineken and put them in his bag before making his way off the island and beginning his journey back to London in time for the match. In one of the following scenes, he was seen at border control with two policemen. One removed the bottles of Heineken from his bag and placed them on the table. The man took a plum from a fruit bowl on the table and 'dribbled' it with his fingers along the table before 'scoring a goal' between the two Heineken bottles. The policemen cheered and stamped the man's passport. In another scene, he was seen driving through the streets of Rio past a group of young men playing football. Another scene showed the man on a plane followed by a visual of a map showing the plane leave Rio and arrive in London. The final scene showed the man arriving at Wembley Stadium in a Chinook helicopter, running into the stadium past a poster on the wall which stated "UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE" and taking his seat next to a woman. After embracing, they were seen clinking the two bottles of Heineken together in a celebratory fashion. On-screen text stated "Heineken open your world".
Seventeen viewers complained about the ad:
1. fifteen viewers challenged whether the ad was irresponsible, because it condoned or encouraged the consumption of alcohol in a football stadium within sight of the pitch, which was an illegal activity; and
2. six viewers challenged whether the ad was irresponsible, because it condoned or encouraged people to take glass bottles into a football stadium, which was not permitted.
1. & 2. Heineken UK Ltd (Heineken) explained that the narrative of the ad set out a light-hearted fantasy in which the lead character was seen trying to reach the final of the UEFA Champions League final. Along the way, he was assisted by various improbable characters and unrealistic situations. In the closing scene, he was seen taking a seat at the final and toasting his female companion with two bottles of Heineken which he brought with him from the start of his journey from Brazil and which featured strongly in the narrative. They said the ad implied visually that the final scene took place at the Champions League Final (in reality held at Wembley Stadium in London), but they believed the sense of unrealistic fantasy was preserved as the character was seen arriving by helicopter, vaulting a turnstile and taking his seat at the very last minute. The camera then panned across what was a generic sports stadium which, Heineken believed, was clearly not Wembley.
Heineken believed that throughout the ad, there was a continued sense of fantasy, "tongue in cheek" humour and a set of highly unrealistic scenarios including swimming to catch a plane, entertaining border guards and arriving at the front of the stadium by helicopter. They believed the narrative and visual style was such that it could easily be inferred by the viewer that the ad was showing one person's fantasy of how they got to the big final. They said that in developing the script and gaining approval from Clearcast, they had made a reasonable assumption that the vast majority of the audience would interpret the narrative as stylised and deliberately unrealistic, and it was intended that the final stadium scene would be viewed in that context.
Heineken did not believe the ad was socially irresponsible or breached the Code. Whilst they acknowledged and understood the specific rules regarding alcohol consumption at UK football stadia, they believed that the scenario which they had set up afforded some creative license in line with the overall improbable nature of the story line. This extended to both the implied consumption of alcohol in sight of the pitch and the use of glass bottles.
Given the light-hearted and fantastical nature of the copy, they did not believe the ad could reasonably be seen as condoning or encouraging crime, disorder or antisocial behaviour in any way. They pointed out that at no point was the main character seen encouraging others to follow suit or was it suggested to the audience that his actions could or should be repeated by them.
Clearcast said they worked closely with the agency, prior to approving the ad, to ensure it followed both the spirit and the letter of the BCAP Code. They felt the treatment was a fantastical story about a man who was on a journey around the world to get to the Champions League final. Although the main character was seen pulling the bottles of Heineken out of his bag in the stadium, no one was shown drinking alcohol in the ad. They also pointed out that the green Heineken bottle was iconic and instantly recognisable with consumers. Therefore, they felt there was some room for allowing it to be shown in terms of creative license.
Clearcast did not believe the ad was irresponsible or breached the Code. They did not believe it condoned or encouraged viewers to take glass bottles into a football stadium.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA understood that it was illegal in the UK to consume alcohol in a football stadium within sight of the pitch and that fans were not permitted to take glass bottles into a football stadium. We noted that the final scene of the ad showed the main character arriving at his seat in the ground, taking out two bottles of Heineken and clinking them in celebration with his female companion. We acknowledged that neither the main character nor his female companion was shown drinking the beer, but we considered that the implication was that they were going to consume the beer during the football match.
We noted that some of the scenes were fantastical in nature; for example, after receiving the tickets, the main character was seen jumping into the sea fully-clothed and swimming off the island, sliding down a waterfall in the jungle and joking with the border officials. However, we considered it was clear throughout that his journey was to the Champions League Final at Wembley, and we noted that it was an actual event at a real stadium. For example, we noted that the writing on his ticket seen early in the ad stated clearly "FINAL WEMBLEY 2013" and contained branding for the Champions League, the visual of the map made clear his destination was London, the stadium was recognisable as being Wembley and on the way into the stadium he passed a poster which stated "UEFA Champions League". We considered therefore that the ad was not obviously fantastical throughout since it depicted a real event at a well-known and recognisable stadium.
We noted that the main character did not encourage other spectators to take glass bottles into the stadium or drink beer within sight of the pitch. However, we considered that the ad could give the impression to viewers that such behaviour, which was either illegal (in the case of consuming alcohol) or not permitted (in the case of bringing glass bottles into the stadium), was acceptable when that was not the case, and there was a risk that viewers would attempt to copy that behaviour. We therefore concluded that the ad was socially irresponsible, because it condoned or encouraged behaviour that was either illegal or not permitted.
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. (Social responsibility), 1.3 1.3 Advertisements must comply with the law and broadcasters must make that a condition of acceptance. (Legality) and 4.9 4.9 Advertisements must not condone or encourage violence, crime, disorder or anti-social behaviour. (Harm and offence).
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form.