Bad World Cup Advertising in Ireland?

Decisions of the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland June 2002:

1) Budweiser: “The Frogs won last time. Please, not again” – Advertising causing offence

A poster advertisement for Budweiser was the subject of an objection. The poster showed a picture of the World Cup Trophy and a Lizard with the caption “The Frogs won last time. Please, not again”. The complaint was that it was offensive and racist to French people.

The advertisers said the campaign featuring frogs and lizards was a long running and popular one. The poster in question used the success of the French football team in the last World Cup as an in-joke between the frogs and lizards. They said they had not received any complaints to date and that the posters were widely acknowledged as being harmless humour and that the use of nicknames was standard practice amongst football fans.

The complaint was however upheld. The ASAI said that ads should respect the dignity of all people and not subject them to ridicule or offensive humour. The term “frogs” was one which was sometimes used in a derogatory manner to describe French people and as such was in contravention of the Code.

2) Carlsberg: Ireland wins World Cup dream – under age drinking

A TV commercial by Carlsberg was the subject of objections. It showed scenes from Irish soccer matches and featured Irish soccer stars Robbie Keane and Jason McAteer. The featured a dream sequence which showed Ireland winning the World Cup. The complaints were that Robbie Keane was under 25 years of age and Jason McAteer would appeal to teenagers.

The advertisers said it had never occurred to them that Robbie Keane’s age would be a problem. They viewed the ad as a football sponsorship communication. While the ad stated that Carlsberg was the “Official beer to the Irish team” it did not imply that Irish fans or the Irish team exclusively drink it or that it contributed to player performance in any way. The commercial had no pub scenes or drinking scenes whatsoever. The only involvement of the individual players was in the football scenes. They also pointed out that Jason McAteer was a 30 year old father of one and unlikely to be a person who minors would strongly identify with.

The complaint was partly upheld. The ASAI Code states that anyone depicted in alcohol advertisements should be over 25 and clearly appear to be over 25. The idea is to prevent ads for alcohol from appealing to minors to avoid encouraging underage drinking. The ASAI Committee felt that while it was a sponsorship communication this advertisement went beyond went beyond advertising the sponsorship. They understood that while the advertisers had intended to keep within the Code the fact that Robbie Keane was under 25 meant that the complaint should be partly upheld. The complaint about Jason McAteer’s involvement was not upheld.

3) McDonalds: World Cup Red & Yellow Cards Promotion – humorous or offensive advertising?

Two TV commercials for McDonalds were the subject of complaints. McDonalds were running a World Cup promotion where customers receive a yellow or red card and could win a prize if the team printed on it won the World Cup. In both ads a person receiving one of these cards with the name of one country on it attempted to aid that country by taking action against players from other teams. This included for example setting a dog on English soccer star Rio Ferdinand in one ad or tampering with the brakes of a player’s car in another. Complaints included that the ad upset children and were offensive in view of the high number of car accidents in Ireland.

The advertisers said that the ads were supposed to portray humorous but over the top scenes where a consumer has to cheer for a country which they would not normally support. The ads were targeted at over-18’s and children could not participate in the promotion. They said having regard to the graphic ads for road traffic accidents on television they failed to see how their ads could be viewed as worse then these.

The complaints were not upheld. The Committee noted that the ads were supposed to be humorous and while concerned about their presentation they did not feel that the ads encouraged dangerous practices or would cause widespread offence.