Brewdog not allowed to say ‘f**k’ on billboards

The UK’s advertising watchdog has ruled that a multinational brewery cannot use the word “f**k” in public advertisements.

Brewdog, which makes Punk IPA beer and Hawkes cider, made headlines this year as it became the first carbon negative global brewery. It went on to place advertisements in a national newspaper, two magazines, and in several posters in cities around the UK, containing the phrase “F**k You CO2 Brewdog Beer Is Now Carbon Negative”. The letters between F and K were obscured by a can of beer.

The ad, which appeared in The Metro, The Week and The Economist, was intended to “shock people into thinking about the planet and reducing and removing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere”, according to the brewer. However, some posters were located It received 25 complaints from members of the public, prompting an investigation from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Brewdog argued the advert has been approved by media partners and by local councils to meet guidelines around using profanity near schools and places of worship. However, the ASA ruled that “the word ’Fuck’ 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.”

Ironically, in its published ruling, the ASA spelled out the word in full seven times. 

The ASA acknowledged that the poster showed “an obscured version of the word “Fuck”; that it had been placed in accordance with guidelines on proximity to schools and religious buildings; that the ad had run during school summer holidays and that one local authority (Newcastle City Council) had been asked and considered the ad acceptable for use. Nevertheless, we considered it would be clear to most of those who saw it that the ad referred to the word “Fuck” in the context of the expression “Fuck you” and was making a pun, in reference to the impact of climate change.”

The advertising watchdog said the advert should not have appeared in The Metro, as it is a free newspaper with a wide circulation, but further action was not necessary for the ad appearing in The Week or The Economist, as an obscured version of the swear word “reflected similar use of language elsewhere in The Week and The Economist and, in light of the ad’s intended message, was not out of place.”

Responding to the ruling, BrewDog co-founder, James Watt told The Drum that 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.”

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