Following the official announcement (see below) from the Portman Group that BrewDog’s Dead Pony Club pale ale is in breach of the alcohol marketing code, BrewDog promptly took the Portman Group to task – in no uncertain terms.
James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog commented in a statement:
“On behalf of BrewDog PLC and its 14,691 individual shareholders, I would like to issue a formal apology to the Portman Group for not giving a shit about today’s ruling. Indeed, we are sorry for never giving a shit about anything the Portman Group has to say, and treating all of its statements with callous indifference and nonchalance.
“Unfortunately, the Portman Group is a gloomy gaggle of killjoy jobsworths, funded by navel-gazing international drinks giants. Their raison d’être is to provide a diversion for the true evils of this industry, perpetrated by the gigantic faceless brands that pay their wages. Blinkered by this soulless mission, they treat beer drinkers like brain dead zombies and vilify creativity and competition. Therefore, we have never given a second thought to any of the grubby newspeak they disseminate periodically.
“While the Portman Group lives out its days deliberating whether a joke on a bottle of beer is responsible or irresponsible use of humour, at BrewDog we will just get on with brewing awesome beer and treating our customers like adults. I’m sure that makes Henry Ashworth cry a salty tear into his shatterproof tankard of Directors as he tries to enforce his futile and toothless little marketing code, but we couldn’t give a shit about that, either.
“We sincerely hope that the sarcasm of this message fits the Portman Group criteria of responsible use of humour,” he added.
Independent Complaints Panel (ICP) of Portman Group
The ICP issued a Press Release stating that the packaging of Dead Pony Club, a pale ale produced by BrewDog, has broken alcohol marketing rules for encouraging both anti-social behaviour and rapid drinking.
Dead Pony Club’s packaging was identified as being in potential breach of the Code for its association with bravado and immoderate consumption, and for placing undue emphasis on the strength and intoxicating effect of the alcohol in the product. The producer did not make representations to the Panel.
The Panel considered the overall impression conveyed by the product, the strength of the beer (Alc 3.8% Vol), as well as the text on the back label.
Whilst acknowledging that the beer was of a lower-than-average strength and that one bottle was well within the recommended daily unit guidelines, the ICP concluded the line on the label, ‘rip it up down empty streets’, associated the product with anti-social behaviour.
The ICP also concluded that the product did not promote immoderate consumption. However, it did rule that the phrases ‘drink fast, live fast’ and ‘we believe faster is better’ could encourage the consumer to drink the product rapidly. Consequently, the product was found by the Panel to be in breach of Code paragraphs 3.2 (b) and (g).
Henry Ashworth, Chief Executive of the Portman Group, which provides the Secretariat for the Independent Complaints Panel, said:
“The Code rules do not exist to prevent humorous or innovative brand marketing but to make sure that humour is used responsibly. We urge producers to exercise due diligence and consult our Code Advisory Team if they are in any doubt.”
The Independent Complaints Panel (ICP) considered the product following an independent audit of drinks last year, administered by Campden BRI on behalf of the Portman Group.