BrewDog has been forced to rip up a poster campaign for its alcohol-free beer Punk AF – which carried the strapline “Sober as a motherfu” – after the ad watchdog branded the play on words offensive.
Virtually since the off, the campaign – devised by Uncommon Creative Studio – attracted criticism. Within days of launch, the Advertising Standards Authority had received scores of complaints about both the content and the fact that it had been placed near a school. Media was planned by Craft Media.
The watchdog received 26 complaints in total; they all challenged whether the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, while 16 also challenged whether the poster was inappropriate for display in a medium where it could be seen by children.
In its defence, BrewDog insisted the ad was not designed to cause offence and, given that it contained no profanity, it would not cause serious or widespread offence and was not inappropriate for display in a medium where it could be seen by children.
The company also argued that, given the number of complaints, the ad could not have caused “widespread’ offence. It also insisted that, as no profanity or offensive language was used, the offence caused could not possibly be construed as “serious”.
Meanwhile, outdoor media agency UKBillboards claimed the partial use of the word “motherfucker” was not offensive, arguing that – according to one definition, at least – that it referred to “a person or thing of a specified kind, especially one that is formidable, remarkable, or impressive in some way”.
But the ASA was not impressed. It ruled that the poster would clearly be seen to allude to the word “motherfucker” and this was likely to offend a general audience – including children – and so it should not be used in any medium viewable by that audience.
Concluding that the ad breached the CAP Code rules on both social responsibility as well as harm and offence, it ordered BrewDog not to run the ad again.
The Scottish company, whose brands also include Trashy Blonde, Dead Pony Club and Hardcore NZ, has yet to respond to the ruling.