Scottish independent brewery, BrewDog Ltd, a company known for its marketing of high strength craft beers including ‘Tactical Nuclear Penguin’ (32% ABV) and ‘Sink The Bismarck!’ (41% ABV), has been reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over its use of gratuitously offensive language on its website.
The brewer’s homepage stated: “BrewDog is a post Punk apocalyptic mother fu*ker of a craft brewery. Say goodbye to the corporate beer whores crazy for power and world domination… Ride toward anarchy and caramel craziness. Let the sharp bitter finish rip you straight to the tits. Save up for a Luger, and drill the bastards.”
The ASA’s adjudication followed a complaint by an internet user who found this language offensive.
BrewDog did not provide a substantive response to the ASA’s enquiries, but did remove the claims from their website.
The ASA upheld the complaint against BrewDog, noting that despite the use of an asterisk in “mother fu*ker”, its inclusion did not obscure the intended meaning. The regulator concluded that the use of such language, which would generally be regarded as highly offensive, was “unlikely to be acceptable in marketing communications”. Similarly, the advertising regulator considered that other language used on the page, including “corporate beer whores” and “rip you straight to the tits”, was also likely to cause serious offence to some people.
The ASA ruled in March 2013 that use of the “c” word was so likely to offend that it should not be used at all in marketing communications.
Rules 1.3 (Social responsibility) and 4.1 (Harm and offence) of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code provide that marketing communications should be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society, and should not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The ASA found BrewDog to be in breach of rules 1.3 and 4.1 and ruled that the homepage must not appear again in its current form.
In response to the ruling, BrewDog co-founder James Watt stated: “We removed the statement from the site because we needed to make room to talk about our Equity for Punks offer. We’ll be putting it back up once the share offer is over. We have thousands of craft beer fans who have invested in what we do and how we do it – they are the people we listen to – not the killjoy, self-important pen pushers at the ASA in their Burton suits. Those mother fuckers don’t have any jurisdiction over us anyway.”
As a non-statutory body, the ASA does not have the power to fine or take legal action against non-compliant advertisers. However, the regulator does have a broad range of other sanctions at its disposal including the ability to ask media to withhold services such as access to advertising space and to withdraw trading privileges.