Strongbow ad banned for suggesting alcohol is as important as personal relationships

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Strongbow: the main character's 'other half'
Strongbow: the main character's 'other half'

Related tags: Advertising, Cider

The UK’s advertising watchdog has banned a Strongbow advert for implying that a “relationship with Strongbow was as important as a significant romantic relationship.”

Strongbow’s tongue-in-cheek “Strongbow Awards” series on its YouTube channel was a satirical parody of awards ceremonies. In the advert in question, the character of Carl won an award, referring to Strongbow cider as his “other half” in the acceptance speech.

While the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says the ad showed alcohol as taking priority in life, Heineken UK maintains that it is “highly unlikely that viewers would seriously think that it portrayed Strongbow as an essential to life.”

Setting the stage: the advert

“This film was a clear parody of glossy awards acceptance speeches and the often perceived fake sincerity they exhibit”

Heineken defends its advert

The advert portrayed a spoof awards ceremony, with the category ‘Best Strongbow as my other half’ won by the character Carl.

When announced as the winner, a Facebook picture of Carl was shown with him holding a can of Strongbow.

The presenter said Carl couldn’t make it to the awards because he was out on a date, but read out some words from Carl: I dedicate this award to my family, to all the lovely creatures out there, and to my other half. I love you. I've loved you since the first day I met ya. And I always will do. My dear Strongbow." 

Heineken: Advert was ‘clear parody’

Heineken said the style, actions and language made it clear it was a parody of real-life, high profile award ceremonies. It said the use of the word ‘love’ was commonplace in the context of food.

Heineken said it believed the advertising Code allowed expression of love or passion for a drink in a humorous way.

But the ASA says the Code requires that marketing communications must not imply that alcohol might be indispensable or take priority in life.

The Youth Alcohol Advertising Council, who challenged the ad, said Carl’s absence implied he was drinking rather than attending the ceremony. Heineken responded that the phrase ‘Carl cannot be here today…’ was a phrase often heard at ceremonies and thus formed part of the satire. The viewer was not told anything more about the nature of Carl’s date, it added.

ASA: “Advert breached code”

The ASA acknowledged the humorous and satirical nature of the adverts but said that, by referring to Strongbow as Carl’s ‘other half,’ it implied Strongbow “was as important to Carl as a significant relationship with another person.”

“We also noted the ad referred to Carl being in love with Strongbow and considered that also indicated Carl's relationship with Strongbow was as important as a significant romantic relationship,” ​said the ASA.

“The ad implied alcohol was as important as, if not more important than, personal relationships”

ASA

“We considered that where the presenter stated Carl was on a date, viewers were likely to infer from this either that Carl was not at the awards ceremony because he was with Strongbow or that, judging from the presenter's tone of voice, expression and where he stated "… good luck with your date", which indicated a level of scepticism, the date was unlikely to go well because Carl was already committed to his relationship with Strongbow.”

“For those reasons, we considered the ad implied that alcohol was as important as, if not more important than, personal relationships and therefore was portrayed as being indispensable and taking priority in life. We concluded that the ad breached the Code and we welcomed Heineken's confirmation that it had already been removed.”

Heineken: advert online since 2011

A Heineken spokesperson told BeverageDaily: “This short film, made in 2011, was a clear parody of glossy awards acceptance speeches and the often perceived fake sincerity that they exhibit. We still believe it highly unlikely that viewers would seriously think that it portrayed Strongbow as an essential to life. We have not had any other complaints about this film in the four years that it sat on our YouTube archive, but it has now been deleted." 

Another challenge from the Youth Alcohol Advertising Council came earlier this year, when it alleged a Heineken advert promoted excessive drinking​, but this advert was cleared by the ASA. 

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