Advertising watchdog bans Brewdog’s alcohol-free beer poster

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK has ordered Scottish brewer Brewdog to take down an ‘offensive’ billboard promoting its alcohol free beer placed outside a school.

Dozens of parents complained to the watchdog after seeing an advert for Brewdog’s Punk AF beer which included text which said “SOBER AS A MOTHERFU”, alongside a beer can with the text “PUNK AF” outside a primary school.

Brewdog said the advert, which launched on 21 October and was scheduled for 44 weeks, “was not designed to cause offence and given 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.”

UKBillboards also said the dictionary classified the word ‘motherf*cker’ as vulgar slang, but they did not believe the context in which it was used in the ad was offensive.

Keen to support the ad’s placement, UKBillboards also gave two separate definitions for the slur: “A despicable or very unpleasant person or thing”, and “A person or thing of a specified kind, especially one that is formidable, remarkable, or impressive in some way”. The advertising body argued that, in the context of promoting the product, the word was consistent with the latter definition.

However, the ASA ruled against the brewer after receiving 26 complaints over the advert.

One complainant identified that the ad was placed immediately outside a primary school, according to the ruling.

“We acknowledged that the word was not displayed in its entirety; however, we considered the word ‘motherfucker’ was clearly being alluded to, and “motherfu” would therefore be understood as a clear reference to that swear word.”

It found that the ad breached two rules regarding social responsibility and harm and offence.

The ASA ruled that Brewdog’s Punk AF ad “must not appear again in the form complained about.”

It is not the first time crass language has landed Brewdog in hot water. The ASA received a complaint about a typically bullish statement on the BrewDog website in 2013, calling itself a “post Punk apocalyptic mother f*cker of a craft brewery.

Coincidentally, Brewdog announced this week it would be holding its first beer festival dedicated to non-alcoholic drinks next year.

The festival, which will take place on 11 January 2020, will be a “free day of hosted talks, tutored tasting sessions and a chance to meet the brewers and producers of AF beers and spirits”, according to the brewer’s website.

Breweries that will also take part in the festival include Mikkeller, Lucky Saint, Thornbridge, Big Drop, and Nirvana.

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