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ASA unimpressed

Watt takes offence as BrewDog poster banned

The poster fell foul of the ASA (wording further obscured in Photoshop)

Maverick brewer and pub chain BrewDog has been drawn into a new controversy after its latest poster and press campaign was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The Aberdeenshire company’s “F*ck You CO2. BrewDog Beer Is Now Carbon Negative” message has been appearing on poster sites and in various publications with a beer can partially obscuring the offensive word.

The adverts, aimed at promoting the company’s carbon negative credentials, have been seen in busy shopping and commercial streets such as George Square in Glasgow. They have also appeared in news publications such as the Metro, The Week and The Economist.

It is the latest stunt by the company following a £30m investment in carbon-offsetting initiatives such as the purchase of 2,050 acres of land near Loch Lomond where it has committed to plant 1 million trees and restore 650 acres of peatland.

However, the ASA was not satisfied that the obscured expletive was sufficient protection to those who might be offended by the poster.

It considered the four-letter word was so likely to offend a general audience that such a reference should not appear in media “where it was viewable by such an audience.”

The ad was banned and must not run again across any out-of-home Sites or The Metro.

BrewDog pointed out that all the media titles had approved the ad as suitable for their readers and said Newcastle City Council had authorised public display.

Responding to the ruling, BrewDog co-founder, James Watt said: “Today the Advertising Standards Authority banned our activism advert.

“The ASA can go f*** themselves. We are in the midst of an existential climate crisis. Thank you to the Metro, The Week, The Economist and billboard sites for understanding the importance of our carbon negative campaign.”

BrewDog COP26 protest in Glasgow

On Sunday the company protested against the postponement of the COP26 climate action summit in Glasgow. It positioned a balloon bearing the words COP OUT at the site of the delayed event.

Daily Business comment: James Watt may be fulminating over the ASA’s decision but he knows that this advertising campaign was not only likely to cause a backlash but was designed to do so. Why else use such provocative language? Indeed, the ASA’s ban feeds the company’s desire to get the message noticed.

Watt will be privately rubbing his hands with glee that he’s managed to squeeze out a few more headlines on top of his advertising investment.

The company is hardly unknown to the regulator. Last year it fell foul of the ASA when a promotion for its alcohol-free IPA featured the phrase “Sober as a Motherfu”.

While its army of supporters say the messages are no different to French Connection’s FCUK campaign, it would be a little more gracious of Mr Watt if he did not respond so aggressively and dismissively when the inevitable bans are handed out. He is in danger of turning what was once a streak of cheeky rebellion into unpleasant arrogance.

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