**WARNING: This post quotes the ASA using actual, hard-core swear words**
An outdoor poster ad for an alcohol-free beer by BrewDog, seen in October 2019, included text which stated “SOBER AS A MOTHERFU”
It also featured a can, bearing the phrase “PUNK AF”.
The poster campaign ran for two weeks across 44 poster sites - though sceptics might argue that they have enjoyed pretty good value from the additional publicity which has come from this upheld complaint.
BrewDog might also have raised a wry smile given that they have managed to get the ASA to say 'motherfucker' three times in their statement, which seemed a tad gratuitous.... doh, now they've got us doing it.
Apologies if you find what the ASA said (multiple times) offensive... we're just reporting the facts! The ASA did not place a warning at the top of their ruling, despite the untargeted nature of it.
BrewDog said the ad 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... even though one billboard was reportedly placed near a primary school.
BrewDog said the ad was designed to be eye-catching and considered it promoted being sober. They did not believe the number of complaints received (26 in total) was indicative of ‘widespread’ offence, despite the fairly localised media and short period during which the ad was used.
They argued that as no profanity or offensive language was used in the ad, they could not see how any offence caused could be construed as ‘serious’.
The ASA disagreed.
The ASA considered older children and adults who saw the ad would understand “MOTHERFU” was a truncated version of the expletive. They considered the word ‘motherf*cker’ was clearly being alluded to, and “motherfu” would therefore be understood as a clear reference to that swear word.
Despite using it themselves so many times even Samuel L Jackson might raise an eyebrow, the ASA considered that word 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. Even in a truncated form, it is not appropriate for display in media where it could be seen by children.
They didn't comment specifically on "Punk AF". Paws for thought...
The full ruling can be found here - those of a delicate disposition have been warned.
A spokesperson also said as no profanity was used in the ad, they could not see how any offence caused could be construed as 'serious'. Also, BrewDog did not believe the number of complaints received was indicative of 'widespread' offence.