The UK Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has upheld 156 consumer complaints relating to an energy drink called ‘Pussy Natural Energy’, but the brand insists protestors simply twisted the meaning of an innocent word.
The ASA’s council upheld complaints relating to four out of six issues, relating to posters and a website promoting the edgy energy drink -- which claims to be backed by tycoon Richard’s Branson’s offspring Holly and Sam, check out the YouTube video below – that has retail distribution through Selfridges, Tesco and Ocado.
One poster advertizing ‘Pussy Natural Energy’ appeared in various locations across the UK stated ‘pussy’ in large, bold text in the center of the advertisement, with smaller text below stating: ‘The drink’s pure, it’s your mind that’s the problem’.
‘We aim to bring Pussy within everyone’s reach’
The ASA also investigated claims on PussyDrinks.com stating ‘The Drink’s Pure: It’s your mind that’s the problem. 100% natural energy’, while smaller text at the bottom of the home page said, alongside a call for interested distributors:
“Our goal is global pussyfication, and we aim to bring Pussy within everyone’s reach.”
A Pussy Natural Energy spokeswoman told BeverageDaily.com this morning that no-one was available to comment on the ASA ruling.
Complainants alleged, inter alia, that the advertisement was (1) offensive due to its implied sexual reference (2) derogatory, sexist and degrading to women (3) that the first poster offended religious beliefs since it was placed near a church (4) the posters were unsuitable to be seen by children.
Pussy Drinks said it was ironic complaints had been made, since their drinks were pure, and their adverts pointed out that it was the mind of the viewer that was the problem.
The Oxford English Dictionary definition of a ‘cat, particularly a kitten’ was correct, the brand said, and their brand reflected feline attributes since it was beautiful, cool, natural, had attitude.
Until the OED changed its definition, Pussy Drinks insisted on its right to advertize its product, and problems had only been caused by complainants (to the ASA) twisting an innocent word.
Oddball Egyptian reference
Puusy Drinks also said it was surprised religious people had complained about the advert, since in the ASA’s words, “they tended to occupy an idyllic place away from the crassness that sadly existed in mainstream society”.
The company also questioned which religion would be specifically offended by Pussy, since the ancient Egyptians used to worship cats; they added that children understood ‘pussy’ as referring to an animal, and thus the word was inoffensive.
Noting the common slang use of ‘pussy’, and the brand’s reference to the word’s dual “impure or problematic” meaning, the ASA council agreed that the advert could cause offence, but that it was not derogatory to women in the absence of a specific reference thereto.
And while very young children were unlikely to be aware of the colloquial meaning of ‘pussy’, the ASA said older kids would understand it, while the the mention of one mind being “the problem” reinforcing their impression that it was intended as an offensive or sexually explicit reference.
CORRECTION, 25/4/13: Yesterday, we mistakenly attributed some comments above - relating to religious people and ancient Egyptians and their worship of cats - to advertising firm JC Decaux. The company informs us that these comments were, in fact, made by Pussy Drinks, but said the ASA ruling published yesterday was unclear in this respect.