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Camden Town Brewery ad banned for appealing to children

A TV advert for Camden Town Brewery broadcast in May and featuring animated characters in a pub has been banned after a complaint was upheld.

(Image: Camden Town Brewery by agency Wieden+Kennedy London)

According to the complainant to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), their young children found the advert “engaging” and said that it was likely to appeal to people under the age of 18.

The advert, which features a “blob-like cartoon figure” which rises out of the beer, also includes animated polar bears and penguins in high-vis jackets among beer cans and neon signage, including ‘in a while crocodile’.

Owners of Camden Town, AB InBev, said they reviewed the advert for compliance with the code, and believed it had a “very clear adult tone throughout”, and pointed out that it made “no reference to youth culture”.

According to AB InBev, the presence of animated characters did not mean it appealed to under-18s, citing adult cartoon shows such as Family Guy or South Park. But the firm did “acknowledge that animation could appeal to children”, but after reviewing previous ASA rulings and advice, it concluded that stylisation, nature of drawings, tone and context were key in determining appeal.

It also said that it chose colour tones and “styled and accessorised” the cartoons “to portray them as adults” and made the “shape of the eyes was wide and squashed, rather than the oversized, bright and standout look that might appeal to children”. It also said it chose drum and bass music which would appeal to adults rather than children, as it “originated in the 1990s”, and the polar bears and penguins were “not portrayed as ‘cute’”.

A previous ASA ruling on a broadcast ad for Camden Town Brewery had been judged not to be of strong appeal to under-18s. That ad had used a similar style of animation and had featured a talking cat and a pair of wacky-looking colourful characters.

But although the ASA acknowledged that the ad had a broadcast restriction to keep it away from under-18 audiences, it said the BCAP Code required that, in addition to appropriate targeting, alcohol ads must not be likely to appeal strongly to people under 18 years of age, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture or showing adolescent or juvenile behaviour.

The authority said in its ruling: “We considered that, broadly speaking, it was animated in a style similar to cartoon programmes aimed at a mature audience. While we acknowledged that those elements were adult-oriented and would not necessarily be familiar or attractive to under-18s, we considered that other aspects of the ad were more playful and child-like. The colours were bold and striking, notably the bright red of the bar, the yellow and orange of the beer river and the bright wall of neon signs. We considered that younger viewers were likely to find that imagery engaging. The character was dragged through a beer pipe and taken on a journey through a fantastical-looking world with surreal background characters and a beer river. We considered that those features would be seen as fun and engaging, and likely to appeal to a younger audience.

“The beer guide character was also brightly coloured, rounded and could change shape. We considered that it looked amiable and friendly, had soft facial features including rounded cheeks, and could be said to resemble a make-believe character in a children’s book or TV programme. We therefore considered that its appearance was likely to appeal to under 18s. Furthermore, we considered its behaviour was playful and unpredictable: it uttered exclamations, changed mood suddenly and seemed excited to push the visitor down the river at speed. The character reappeared at the end of the ad and engaged with viewers by winking and giving a thumbs-up sign. We considered that the actions of the beer guide character were juvenile and engaging, and therefore added to its appeal to younger viewers.”

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