Supermarket ad for wine brand ‘Fat bastard’ banned by advertising watchdog

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

The ASA took issue with the fact the advert, on the outer pages of the circular, could be seen by children. Pic: iStock
The ASA took issue with the fact the advert, on the outer pages of the circular, could be seen by children. Pic: iStock

Related tags: Advertising

The UK’s advertising watchdog has banned an advert from supermarket Iceland for the ‘Fat bastard’ wine brand, saying it was ‘irresponsibly targeted’ because it could have been seen by children. 

However, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said that using such language in marketing and brand names is unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence in itself.

Two circulars for branches of Iceland were delivered to homes in October and to a primary school in November, with a money-off voucher on the front. The back of the circulars advertised an introductory offer on ‘Fat bastard’ wine. The text read: ‘Outrageous name, outrageously good wine.’

The ASA considered two issues: whether the language would cause serious or widespread offence; and whether it was inappropriately targeted because it might be seen by young children.

It has ruled that the advert may not appear again in its current form: and that language unsuitable for children should not be displayed on the outside cover of circulars.

ASA: name and marketing would not cause serious offence…

Iceland Foods Ltd said that, although the name of the wine might be controversial, it had no control over the brand name. Iceland added that its supplier had been distributing this brand for ten years, yet no complaints had been issued to the ASA in this time.

The ASA said: “Advertisers should take particular care to take account of the likely audience when using swearwords in their marketing, including instances where the swearword formed part of the brand name of the advertised product.

“However, we considered that the term “Fat bastard”, while likely to be distasteful to some recipients, was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.”

…but ASA rules ad was ‘irresponsibly targeted’

However, the ASA upheld a complaint that challenged whether the ad was appropriately targeted as it might be seen by young children.

Iceland said the ad was targeted at adults and not children. However, it acknowledged that children might see the circular, particularly the outer pages, and said any future circulars would put ads for the product in the inner pages.

It added that the circular delivered to a primary school was done so in error: with the distribution company given instructions to deliver only to residential addresses.

While the ASA acknowledged the primary school delivery had been in error, it criticised the ‘untargeted manner’ of distribution.  

“Notwithstanding that we considered the language in the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, we considered that the references to “Fat bastard” were unsuitable to be seen by young children and should not have featured on the outside covers of the circulars. We concluded the ad had been irresponsibly targeted.”

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