Irn Bru’s ‘Cow’ Ad Offends Consumers

Irn Bru’s ‘Cow’ Ad Offends Consumers

A poster ad for Irn-Bru, which featured a Jersey cow next to the line, “When I’m a burger, I want to be washed down with Irn-Bru,” was the most complained about ad in 1998, according to the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) annual report. The Authority received 589 complaints about the ad for A G Barr’s fizzy drink.

The complainants believed that the advertisement was offensive, and challenged the implication that the cow would enjoy becoming a burger. However, the ASA did not upheld the complaints, but it did issue a warning to advertisers that the portrayal of animals in advertising can cause offence to the public.

The second most complained about ad was for TCP throat lozenges and showed a tiger with its jaw clamped around a man’s throat. By coincidence, at the time of the campaign there was widespread media coverage of the mauling of a circus trainer by a tiger. The ASA decided that in normal circumstances the ad would be seen as light-hearted and that, as the advertiser took steps to reschedule the ad, no action should be taken.

The number of complaints which the ASA received last year rose from 10,676 in 1997 to 12,217. Of these, 1,925 were upheld. The ASA notes, however, that the majority of these complaints were against a small number of ads: the Irn-Bru ad alone attracted 589 complaints – more than the whole of 1997’s top 10.

“Complaints serve as a barometer of public opinion on some advertising campaigns and there are subjects, such as the portrayal of animals, sex and religion, where advertisers would do well to note the strength of feeling expressed even in those cases where the ASA did not uphold the complaints,” warns the report.

Advertising Standards Authority: 0171 580 5555

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