A tweet by Burger King, which informed customers it was "selling milkshakes all weekend", has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for condoning and encouraging anti-social behaviour.
Never ones to be accused of ‘vanilla’ marketing campaigns, the tweet read:
"Dear people of Scotland. We’re selling milkshakes all weekend. Have fun. Love BK. #justsaying".
It was accompanied by an image of Nigel Farage in the immediate aftermath of a ‘milkshaking’ while visiting Scotland.
As BBC News put it "it followed a number of dairy-based incidents involving campaigners on the European election trail."
Mr Farage wasn’t the only recipient of an unwanted shake-over during that period. Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (who has several aliases, including Tommy Robinson) and UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin were both hit by food and drink during the build-up to the poll.
24 people complained that it was either offensive or socially irresponsible for condoning or encouraging violence or anti social behaviour.
Disregarding the mantra adopted by many monarchs to ‘never apologise, never explain’, Burger King responded:
"Our tweet regarding the situation in Edinburgh was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek reaction to the situation. It appears some have misinterpreted this as an endorsement of violence, which we absolutely reject.
"At Burger King, we totally believe in individuals’ right to freedom of expression and would never do anything that conflicts with this. We’d never endorse violence or wasting our delicious milkshakes."
However, the ASA concluded that: "Although... the tweet may have been intended as a humorous response to the suspension of milkshake sales by the advertiser’s competitor (McDonald’s in Edinburgh) in the context in which it appeared we considered it would be understood as suggesting that Burger King milkshakes could be used instead by people to ‘milkshake’ Nigel Farage."
Taking the position that the tweet breached the CAP Code, the ASA was in a slightly sticky situation: To investigate and formally uphold in order to make clear to the advertiser, complainants, industry and society that this was not on, or to resolve this informally, or even let the promoter off completely to avoid giving it the oxygen of renewed publicity (which would have left a sour taste).
The ASA opted to uphold formally.
One might reasonably wonder whether Burger King gives two shakes about this upheld ruling. It’s not likely to cause them much reputational harm, and will inevitably give the tweet some more airtime.
Of course, we would never be so cynical as to suggest this kind of thing might have been factored into any brand's PR campaign, nor do we think this was a shakedown. But, at this late stage, some would argue there’s no use crying over spilled milkshake.
The full ruling can be found here
Burger King defended the tweet, calling it a "tongue-in-cheek reaction to recent events".