Camden Town Brewery has recently been under fire for a controversial TV ad that allegedly appears to promote its alcoholic products to a young and impressionable audience. The brightly coloured animation was criticised for its semblance to cartoon-style artwork and childlike character design, creating a tone that was deemed inappropriate for the advertisement of beer.
The company has been told that the ad cannot be shown as it projects an unsafe message to children, and a number of adjustments will have to be made in order for it to return to TV screens. (For some positive examples of brilliant branding, check out our collection of the best animated logos.)
The controversial ad begins in a pub setting, with the main character ordering a "pint of the usual." Swooping in, a blob-like cartoon character emerges, to take the protagonist on a tour of Camden Town Brewery. While it may be lost upon younger viewers, the blob creature is drawn to resemble beer, complete with a white foamy outline. Flowing in and out of rivers of the golden liquid, he reinforces the appeal of the "refreshing Camden beer."
After an anonymous complaint was made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the regulators began an investigation into the advertisement and concluded that the friendly blob creature was in fact misleading child viewers with his endearing characterisation. "We considered that the actions of the beer guide character were juvenile and engaging, and therefore added to its appeal to younger viewers," the ASA reported.
It's not uncommon for other IPA brands like Brewdog and Beavertown to embrace more creative and contemporary advertising styles, that focus on playfulness rather than overtly adult themes. However, as Camden Town Brewery has displayed, there is a fine line between stylistic flair and childlike naivety when it comes to cartoons.
AB InBev, owners of the Camden Town Brewery, contest that the ad had a "very clear adult tone", drawing connections to adult animations such as Family Guy and South Park to dispel the connection between animation and children's content. The brand argued that the pub setting was a clear signifier of an adult audience and that under-18's would not resonate with that particular setting.
Despite its best efforts to defend the campaign, the company has been banned from airing the ad on television, unless suitable adjustments are made to make it more age-appropriate. According to The Caterer, a spokesperson from Camden Town Brewery responded: "We take our role as responsible marketers very seriously, and always seek to ensure that our communications are directed only to those above the legal drinking age and are carried out in a socially responsible manner."
if you want to see an animated ad done right, check out Beavertown's beer collab with Queens of the Stoneage, where beer and music combine to make sweet harmony.