The UK advertising watchdog has banned brewer, pub firm and hotel operator BrewDog from displaying a controversial advert for its alcohol-free beer after it was deemed to be offensive.

The outdoor poster advert, seen in October 2019, included the words “sober as a motherfu” next to the image of a beer can with the text “BrewDog”, “punk AF” and “alcohol-free IPA” written on it.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 26 complaints about the advert, all of which challenged whether it was likely to cause “serious or widespread” offence. A total of 16 complaints also challenged whether the ad was inappropriate for a medium that could be seen by children.

BrewDog said the campaign began on 21st October and was scheduled to run for two weeks across 44 sites and argued that it was not designed to cause offence and contained no profanity. It argued that the ad was designed to be eye-catching and promoted being sober and it did not see how any offence caused could be considered “serious”.

But the ASA upheld the complaint, noting that one ad was placed immediately outside a primary school. “We considered older children and adults who saw the ad would understand ‘motherfu’ was a truncated version of the expletive ‘mother fucker’,” the ASA said in its ruling.

It told BrewDog that the advert must not appear again in the form complained about. It also warned BrewDog to avoid causing widespread offence by avoiding references to expletives in media targeted to a general audience which included children.

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