No such thing as a free beer? Camden Town Brewery rapped for ‘drinkable’ TV ad

Animated spot gave the impression that first come, first served giveaway was a prize draw, ASA rules.

Camden Town: spot features a range of animation styles
Camden Town: spot features a range of animation styles

Camden Town Brewery has been hit with a ban by the Advertising Standards Authority, after the watchdog ruled that its “drinkable” TV ad, “Give ‘em Hells beer giveaway”, was misleading about the nature of its giveaway promotion.

The animated ad, by Wieden & Kennedy, was shown last August and offered free Camden Hells lager to viewers that scanned a QR code appearing in the ad.

But one person complained to the ASA that, after doing so, they were placed in a queue for more than an hour before learning that the promotion had closed due to high demand.

In its response to the regulator, Camden Town claimed that both the ad and updates to participants during the virtual queue made clear that entrants would be in with a chance to win free beer only if they were lucky – for example by delivering the message: “Pay attention, as if you win beer, you'll only have 10 minutes to click through to claim your prize, or it will be reallocated to someone else."

But the ASA determined that “the nature of the promotion was not clear”. While it appeared to be a prize draw, in which any entrant had a chance of winning, it was actually a giveaway, with the first people to respond winning prizes. The only random element was whether they received a six-, 12- or 24-pack of beer.

As a result, the ASA said it “expected to see evidence from Camden Town Brewery to demonstrate that they had made a reasonable estimate of the likely demand” for the promotion. “With that done, they then needed to show that they either were capable of meeting that demand, or that they had provided clear information in the ad about any limitations on availability so that consumers could make an informed decision about whether or not to participate.”

The ASA added that the brand had publicised the promotion on social media and invited people to sign up to get alerts the next time the ad was shown on TV, which, it said, was likely to have increased the demand for the free products.

It concluded: “Because the ad presented a giveaway of free items in an unclear way that confused it with a prize draw, and because Camden Town Brewery had not made a reasonable estimate of demand or made sufficiently clear how limited availability of free beer was likely to be in practice, we considered that the ad was misleading and breached the Code.”

The ASA rejected a second complaint, however, that the cartoon art style of the ad made it likely to appeal to people under the age of 18.

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