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Company: The Wychwood Brewery Company Ltd
Breach: Yes
Final Decision: 6 November 1997

Considered under the 1st Edition of the Code.

Complaint summary

“The product is described on its packaging as a ‘reputed aphrodisiac’, which suggests sexual success or prowess. The character on the bottle would predominantly appeal under 18s” The initial letter of notification to the Company stated in addition: “You may also wish to comment on any links between the product and the film ‘Beetlejuice'”.

Complainant

Trading Standards Officer, Bristol

Decision

The complaint was received on 25 July 1997, i.e. before the revised version of the Code was in place. However, as the complaint was not considered by the Panel until 30 September 1997, by which time the new Code had been in operation for almost a month, the Code Secretariat suggested to the Company that the complaint be considered under the second edition of the Code; the Company telephoned the Secretariat on 26 September 1997 and agreed to this.

The Panel noted that Beetlejuice was described as a “reputed aphrodisiac” on the back of the bottle and that the Company, in its letter dated 14 August 1997, had conceded that this description was not in accordance with the Code. The Panel found that the description did suggest sexual success or prowess and UPHELD the complaint under Paragraph 3.1(e).

The Panel noted that the product bore the same name as a 1988 film about a ghost (certificate 15) and a spin-off children’s animated series. The Panel was of the view that, in addition to the name being identical, there were certain other similarities between the bottle design and the film/cartoon: for example, the character ‘Beetlejuice’ is often depicted wearing a black and white striped suit, and black and white stripes are also a dominant theme of the bottle design. Likewise, in the cartoon the ‘Beetlejuice’ ghost can be made to appear or disappear by repeating his name three times and the text on the back of the bottle includes the words ‘BEETLEJUICE, BEETLEJUICE, BEETLEJUICE…release the spirit’. The Panel was therefore of the view that there was a link between this product and the film or cartoon ‘Beetlejuice’, and that the product design resembled a character which was popular in predominantly under 18’s culture, in contravention of the Paragraph 3.1(ii) of the Code. Moreover, the Panel was of the view that the cartoon character on the bottle, dressed in bright colours and unusual garb, was in any case an allusion to under 18s culture, in contravention of the same Code Paragraph. Furthermore, the Panel found that the bright pink beetles depicted on the bottle were more likely to appeal to under 18s than to adults. Accordingly the Panel UPHELD the complaint under Paragraph 3.1(h)(ii) of the Code.

The Panel was pleased to note that the Company, in its letter dated 31 October 1997, had promptly agreed to completely redesign the packaging to bring it into line with the Code.

Action by company

The company changed the product name to ‘Z’ and dropped the ‘Dr Thirsty’s’ from the neck label.