Has the ASA created a storm in a beer glass?

The ASA have just wrapped the punk brewery BrewDog over the knuckles for implying a swear word on their website.

The website received a record number of complaints for using the word “motherfu*ker”. Well one complaint actually, and that probably came from a rival brewery or a nun.

The extract the ASA highlighted was, “BrewDog is a post Punk apocalyptic mother fu*ker of a craft brewery.  Say goodbye to the corporate beer whores crazy for… “


BrewDog’s response has been swift – “We say bollocks…“ –  the rest is unprintable. As are most of the comments on their Facebook site,  please don’t look if you are easily offended by a few swear words and please remember to block the site if you have sensitive children under 18 years old.

I’ve heard much worse language used in my local school playground by 12 year old kids, so are the ASA a little over sensitive, or have nothing better to do? Especially when there are much more serious breaches of the CAP guidelines being ignored. Why pick on publicity hungry BrewDog knowing you are going to be exploited and probably have more people gunning for you than supporting you, seems a bit dumb to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a great supporter of self regulation and the ASA but self regulation only gets taken seriously when it is seriously handled and this seems petty.

ASA’s response,  “likely to cause serious offence to some people“ – likely? Who are these people? Sorry, one person. The word meat causes offence to vegetarians. Justine Bieber causes offence to real music lovers – where do we draw the line? And what about FCUK – wasn’t that highly offensive to dyslexics? (Work it out.)

As I wrote on Brand Republic yesterday, you have to consider context. A naked women in a porn mag, a boys mag or page 3 of the Sun is acceptable, but not in the Church Times or The Dandy. This word, set in 12pt type, was mildly disguised was on the site of one of the most maverick brands in the drinks industry and anyone who knows BrewDog wouldn’t be surprised.

And how come the word isn’t offensive when it’s on the ASA site – 3 times! If someone complains to the ASA about the use of the word motherfu*ker on their site will their uphold a complaint against themselves?

The question is, what is the ASA going to do about their Facebook site that is now full of swear words about the ASA from the public? However, there are some amusing ones, “I think ye should create a special one off and call it ‘Feck the ASA“

It’s somewhat ironic that BrewDog have just launched a beer called Nanny State.



Founded in 2007 by James Watt & Martin Dickie, the Scottish based BrewDog is one of the most successful growing breweries in the world at the moment – and the largest independently Scottish owned brewery producing about 700,000 bottles per month for export to 27 different countries. So they are doing something right.

The founders are big on ethics and planning to build a new eco brewery, funded by their consumers, they call it Equity for Punks. You can buy a share for just £95. Their promotional video for the investment is probably the first to contain a swear word.

Founder, James Wyatt, is not shy about voicing their opinion about mass produced beer, “corporate beer whores” and have made some fun videos – but parental warning – the videos, like Fake Lager (http://vimeo.com/70364441) may contain strong language that could offend sensitive people.

They founders even dressed up as penguins to make a corporate video. They do crazy things, PR grabbing stunts and in case you were thinking of getting your new business director to chase them, don’t waste you time – they hate advertising, James has expressed some strong views about that too! Pity, as it’d be a great brand to do ads on.

BrewDog is a great brand name but despite the fact these guys aren’t from an agency background they get branding better than the professionals and have christened their brews with some novel names: Dead Pony Club, Zeitgeist, Chaos Theory, Trashy Bond and Hello My Name is Ingrid.

Not afraid of upsetting people, actually it’s something they do very well, in 2009, Tokyo* (18.2% ABV) caused controversy when UK watchdog the Portman Group complained about it being seriously strong. Their response? They launched Tactical Nuclear Penguin (32% ABV), then Sink The Bismarck! (41% ABV) and The End of History (55% ABV) which was sold packed in a stuffed squirrel – when it comes to punk values, they just keep going from strength to strength.

They also introduced a beer named after a drug called “Speedball“, saying “…we thought we would give them something worth banning us for…”  They did.

The trouble with running a punk beer brewery is that there are always a small number of morons out that that prefer to whine (excuse the pun).

I say cheers to BrewDog.


(You can sample BrewDog either from Morrisons or their pub in Camden Town, but leave the kids and the car keys at home!)


ASA Adjudication on BrewDog: