BrewDog has reacted in a typically confrontational fashion after receiving its second ban from the ad watchdog in less than 12 months – once again, for an out of home execution featuring a partially-obscured swear word.
Campaign reported in September that the Advertising Standards Authority was considering whether to investigate the ad, created in-house, which reads “Fuck You CO2”, with the middle letters of the first word blocked out by a can of Punk IPA. It was launched to create awareness of BrewDog’s new status as a carbon negative company.
The ASA investigated whether the work was offensive and inappropriate for display in a medium where it could be seen by children, after it received 25 complaints about its appearance in five locations (across Glasgow, London and Newcastle) and in Metro, The Week and The Economist.
BrewDog said it had taken steps to limit the exposure of children to the ad, such as running it on the outdoor sites only during school holidays. But the ASA decided that “the word ‘fuck’ was so likely to offend a general audience” that it shouldn’t appear anywhere it could be seen by one.
It concluded that because Metro is a widely available, free newspaper, the same principle should apply. But in a decision that may be encouraging for marketers and copywriters with a penchant for strong language, the watchdog ruled that it did not apply to the other two titles.
The fact that readers would have had to actively purchase The Week and The Economist – combined with their editorial tone – meant those placements were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, the ASA said.
Responding to the ruling, BrewDog’s co-founder, James Watt, made clear that his long-standing animosity towards the ASA had not dimmed. “Today the Advertising Standards Authority banned our activism advert,” he said.
“The ASA can go fuck 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."
On Monday, Watt and co-founder Martin Dickie spoke at Altcop, an event supported by BrewDog intended as an alternative to COP26 (the United Nations Climate Change Conference), which was set to take place this month in Glasgow but has been postponed to next November.
BrewDog marketing director Sophie More added that the carbon negative strategy came from a belief that “being carbon neutral is no longer enough and that businesses should be having a positive impact on the planet”.