Summary of Council decision:

Two issues were investigated, of which one was Upheld and one was Not upheld.

Ad description

Two circulars for branches of Iceland Food Warehouse, delivered to homes in the week beginning 19 October 2015 and to a primary school on 23 November 2015, advertised a money-off voucher on the front. The back of the circulars advertised an introductory offer on the “FAT bastard” brand of wine. Text stated “OUTRAGEOUS NAME OUTRAGEOUSLY GOOD WINE” next to the brand name.


Four complainants challenged whether:

1. the language used in the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence; and

2. the ad was appropriately targeted, because it might be seen by young children.


1. Iceland Foods Ltd acknowledged the name of the wine might be controversial but said that as it was a branded product they had no control over the brand name. They said the supplier had confirmed there was no malicious or offensive intention when choosing the name of the wine. The name was based on the story that, when first tasting the wine, the winemaker exclaimed that it was a “fat bastard” due to its full-bodied nature.

Iceland Foods said their advertising acknowledged that some people may view the wine as having an “outrageous name” and they appreciated that a few people might find it distasteful. However, they did not believe the name would cause serious or widespread offence. They felt that was demonstrated by the small number of complaints received by the ASA when the ad had been delivered to over 175,000 households, and the fact their supplier had been distributing FAT Bastard wines for ten years, but the ASA had not previously received complaints.

2. Iceland Foods said they appreciated that door-drop circulars could be read with other post, but the ads were targeted at the adults responsible for food shopping and not children. They said there was nothing particular about the design and arrangement which would attract a child’s attention and nothing to imply that the ad was aimed at children. They said alcohol typically featured at the back of door-drop circulars, and in the case of the circular distributed in October it contained a Halloween feature which included sweets and snacks on one of the inside back pages. Iceland Foods did not believe it would be responsible to place an ad for wine next to that feature as they recognised that adults might show their children the Halloween treats available. However, they acknowledged that children might see the circular, particularly the outer pages, and therefore would ensure that ads for the product would be placed on the inner pages of such circulars in future.

With regard to the circular which was distributed to a primary school, Iceland Foods said their agency had given strict instructions to the company that distributed the circulars that they should only be delivered to residential addresses. The circular therefore should not have been delivered to the school, and the distribution company had taken responsibility for that error and taken steps to ensure it did not happen again.


1. Not upheld

The ASA considered that advertisers should take particular care to take account of the likely audience when using swearwords in their marketing, including instances where the swearword formed part of the brand name of the advertised product. We noted that the circular was distributed to households without any additional targeting criteria. However, we considered that the term “FAT bastard”, while likely to be distasteful to some recipients, was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. We therefore concluded the ad did not breach the Code in that regard.

On that point we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.  (Responsible advertising) and  4.1 4.1 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), but did not find it in breach.

2. Upheld

We noted that the ad had been delivered to the primary school in error, and in any case considered that it was unlikely that children at the school would have seen it. We considered, however, that a circular distributed to homes in an untargeted manner was likely to be seen by young children, and noted that the references to “FAT bastard” appeared on the outside where they were immediately visible. Notwithstanding that we considered the language in the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, we considered that the references to “FAT bastard” were unsuitable to be seen by young children and should not have featured on the outside covers of the circulars. We concluded the ad had been irresponsibly targeted.

On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule  1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.  (Responsible advertising).


The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Iceland Foods Ltd to ensure that language which was unsuitable for children to see was not displayed on the outside cover of future circulars.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

1.3     4.1    

More on