A TV ad for Foster's Lager, seen on 20 April 2017, which opened with a wide shot of a cricket field in Melbourne, Australia, in 1886. The camera focused on two Australian characters who commented on a game played between English and Australian players. One of the characters said, "Nice one, Walter. Putting the pommes out first." The other character replied, “If they were steaks on the barbie, they'd be well done." During their conversation, the English team were shown performing poorly. Two new characters then entered the field on a wagon. The characters opened up the back of their wagon which revealed a keg of Foster's lager. One of the characters said: "G'day, fellas. William and Ralph Foster." Ralph Foster then handed an English player a pint of lager and said, “There you go, mate. Try not to drop it." The cricketer took a sip of the lager then breathed a sigh of relief. One of the characters seen earlier in the ad then looked down in disappointment at their drink. The advert then cut to a screen with a voice-over and on-screen text which both said "Foster's. For the thirsty." In the background of the final shot, blurred out of focus, was a group of characters drinking lager together.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because it implied that drinking alcohol was capable of changing mood, physical condition or behaviour or as a source of nourishment, or that it could improve performance.
Heineken UK Ltd t/a Foster’s Lager said the CAP Code expressly allowed advertisers to refer to refreshment providing it was done within the framework of the wider code and did not imply an improvement in performance.
Foster’s said the story told in the ad was one of refreshment and the narrative was a highly stylised make-believe scenario with humour playing a key part.
They said the opening sequence of the ad showed that the England team were hot and thirsty and that the arrival of the Foster’s cart set up the refreshment story in the ad. Foster’s maintained that apart from looking pleased with his cold drink, the English cricket player’s mood did not change and the ad did not imply that his physical condition or sporting prowess had improved by drinking Foster’s. They said the part of the ad where the players left the field of play to enjoy a beer themselves did not show or imply any resumption or the resulting sporting performance of the England team.
Foster’s said the viewer had no knowledge of the state of play (e.g. the score), at the point of the carriage arriving, other than the fielder missing a single catch and it would be difficult to assess a change in fortune.
Foster’s said it was a material fact that viewers did not see the resumption of play, and it was clear from the closing scene that further play was unlikely to resume, not least because the carriage remains in the middle of the playing field. They said that players from both sides took advantage of the beer, indicating further that additional play was unlikely.
Foster’s said they believed that the majority of viewers would understand that the arrival of the beer carriage during play was both an unusual, and very obviously comedic interruption to the game of cricket, which in itself was a matter of parody rather than depicting a realistic sporting match. They said while the final background scenes were in “soft” focus, most viewers would be fully able to understand the context conveyed by the closing scene, that play had been abandoned.
Clearcast said it would be tenuous to suggest that there were any explicit or implied claims that alcohol was linked as a source of nourishment. They said the behaviour, physical condition and mood of the players had not changed in any way that would suggest alcohol had had an impact on them, nor were they seen to continue playing a new game after drinking, so there was no suggestion of improved performance.
Clearcast asserted the only message the ad conveyed was that the cold glass of Foster’s could provide some refreshment on a hot and sunny day, which was clearly marked out as an acceptable narrative by Code rule 19.8 which stated advertisers “may refer to refreshment”.
The ASA noted that the ad showed the English team struggling to play in the sun before the arrival of the Foster's cart during the middle of play. We considered many viewers would see the arrival of the cart as fantastical or comedic and that the Australian Foster’s brothers, who handed lager to the English players, only added to that interpretation of the ad.
There were repeated references to heat and several shots of hot English players. We considered the provision of lager implied that Foster’s would ease their discomfort and act as a source of refreshment.
We noted that the ad ended with an English cricketer sipping his pint of Foster's before both cricket teams drank together, not in play, in the background of the ad. We considered that while the end of the match was not explicitly depicted and traditionally the game would continue following interruption, it was clear from the images in the background that play had ended. There was no suggestion that Foster’s lager enhanced the performance of the English or Australian team and the slogan “For the Thirsty” at the end of the ad reinforced the impression that the lager was purely for the purposes of refreshment.
Because the ad made it sufficiently clear that the game had ended, and viewers were likely to infer that the drink was intended for the purposes of refreshment, we concluded that the ad did not irresponsibly imply that alcohol had a therapeutic quality and therefore did not breach the code.
We investigated under 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), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.