The advertisement opened with staff from a brewery leaving for the evening and turning off the lights. A squirrel is then shown emerging from a bucket, he jumps down into the brewery and walks across a mantelpiece where empty beer glasses are shown. A portrait of John Smithwick is hanging on the wall. The squirrel jumps from the mantelpiece onto a control desk where he presses a red button to start the machinery. The squirrel is shown striking a match to light the furnace and running along the top of the grain stores to lower a lever which releases two types of grain into a vat. The squirrel handpicks a green grain from a bag and places it into the vat. He then opens a safe where a bag of ’Smithwicks Yeast’ is stored and places a handful of the yeast into the vat. The squirrel then waits for the beer to brew and is asleep by the control desk when an alarm wakes him up. He then holds a small beer glass up to a tap where Smithwicks pours into the glass. The squirrel holds the glass up to the portrait of John Smithwick and we see that there is also a squirrel in the portrait.
MVO: “After generations of brewing, you know how to craft the perfect pint. Experience. It’s what you do with it that counts.”
The end screen shows a pint of Smithwicks with the wording: Experience. It’s what you do with it that counts.
Alcohol Action Ireland considered that the advertisement was directly appealing to children and by using a squirrel was drawing the young viewer to the advertisement. They considered that it was in breach of Section 7.6 of the Code.
The advertisers stated that they take their commitments to market their brands in a responsible way seriously and have processes in place to ensure that all their campaigns are scrutinised both internally and externally. They stated that during the creative process their creative agency worked closely with Copy Clear to ensure that the campaign did not have any form of appeal to children and had specifically taken the following steps:
1.Appearance: The squirrel was deliberately designed to look grey, old, wizened and dishevelled. They stated that the animation was not cartoonish or Disney in nature but had instead a harder (older) edge to it. This was carried out to ensure that the squirrel did not look cute or appeal to children.
2.Character: They stated that the squirrel’s character was carefully crafted to appeal to adults only, portraying him as crafty, experienced and nosey, not cute, comical or cartoonish.
3.Setting of the advertisement: They stated that the setting was a dark, old brewery with mechanical paraphernalia used to brew beer and that this was the domain of adults and was of low interest to children.
4.The music: They stated that they had deliberately chosen a piece of music that appealed to adults not children. They considered that the song, ‘Learnt my lesson well, by the Kaiser Chefs, was a song that appealed to adults by a band that appealed to adults. They stated that all members of the Kaiser Chefs were over 25 and had a fan base well above the 75% legal purchase age that they used as a regulatory standard. They also stated that the music had a heavy, loud sound that helped to distance the advertisement from any feeling of cuteness or children’s cartoons.
They stated that the squirrel was chosen to dramatise the brewing process as it was an animal that consumers would immediately recognise to be inquisitive and industrious, the qualities that represented Smithwicks and their brewers. They pointed out that the squirrel did not form any part of their brand merchandising, nor was there any form of toys or merchandising that could in any way appeal to children.
The advertisers also stated that they ensured that the advertisement conformed with the Alcohol Marketing Communications Monitoring Body’s (AMCMB) placement code in terms of where and when it could be shown. They stated that all of their online channels had an age gate to restrict access to those under the LPA and that all of their outdoor and broadcast advertising stringently followed the AMCMB’s Code guidelines for best practice.
Finally, they considered that when the advertisement was examined as a whole, considering the sound, feel and look, it was very clearly communicating with their core target audience, those over the age of 35.
Complaint not Upheld.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee reviewed the requirements of Section 7.6 of the Code in relation to all aspects of the potential appeal of advertising for alcoholic products to children. They acknowledged the potential appeal of animals, particularly smaller animals to children and noted that caution was required in their use to ensure that they did not appeal to children in a manner that might breach the Code requirements. They did not consider, however, that the portrayal in this case would have an appeal to children. In arriving at this decision they took account of the following:
•The general dark background of the presentation;
•The adult background music;
•The greying, aged image of the squirrel;
•The media plan for the advertising.
The Committee did not consider that the advertisement had breached Section 7.6 of the Code.
No further action was required in relation to the advertisement.
The Committee reminded advertisers generally of the need for caution when using animals which they considered could, in a range of circumstances, give rise to an alcohol advertisement being in breach of the Code.