Final Decision: 10 July 2018
Considered under 5th Edition of the Code.
- “The product is called Pink IPA Beer for Girls” – Portman Group acting in lieu of a member of the public
- “Scottish microbrewery BrewDog has launched a limited edition bottling of their flagship ‘Punk IPA’ beer under the name ‘Pink IPA’. The labelling for this bottling prominently features the phrase ‘Beer for girls’. The same phrase is also used in their marketing for this product. I believe the phrase ‘Beer for girls’ may appeal directly to consumers under the age of 18” – Member of the public
Under Code paragraph 3.2(b)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous or anti-social behaviour
Under Code paragraph 3.2(h)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material should not in any direct or indirect way have a particular appeal to under-18s.
The company’s submission
The company stated that the marketing and concept around Pink IPA was not irresponsible. The company explained that Pink IPA was a limited edition version of Punk IPA for International Women’s Day, designed to generate discussion and awareness of the gender pay gap. The company stated that the packaging was deliberately satirical and that the colour and tagline ‘Beer for girls’ were exaggerated to communicate this message. The company did not believe that any individual who had read the packaging or accompanying campaign material (including a blog post issued post product launch which was required to explain the intention of the campaign) could fail to understand that this was a gender-marketed product.
The company then addressed the term ‘Beer for girls’ which both complainants believed directly appealed to under-18s. The company explained that the use of the word ‘girls’ was used to highlight the fact that the term was often used in society to describe women in a derogatory way and that the female team responsible for the project deemed it an appropriate, sarcastic take on gender-based marketing. The company also highlighted that the ‘for’ in the phrase was used in the positive sense of support rather than as a possessive meaning. The company stressed that there had been no attempt to target anyone under the age of 18 and that it had made it explicitly clear on the product packaging that the product was alcoholic by prominently including the ABV, required warnings and the word ‘beer’.
The company confirmed that it intended to donate all sales proceeds to the Women’s Engineering Society.
The company acknowledged that the Pink IPA concept had been construed in different ways but highlighted that it had received a lot of praise for generating awareness and discussion around the gender pay gap.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel acknowledged that Pink IPA was designed to generate discussion around the gender pay gap and recognised that the product was intended to be ironic. The Panel discussed the use of the term ‘girls’ and noted that the Oxford English Dictionary defined the term as ‘a female child’. The Panel acknowledged that ‘girls’ was also used as a generic term, sometimes offensively, to refer to young women. While the Panel understood that the company had intended for the term to be used ironically, they believed that its use had been misinterpreted, which was reflected in the company’s need to post a blog after the initial launch of the product clarifying the meaning of the campaign.
The Panel assessed the overall impression conveyed by the product under the Code; focussing first on the use of the colour pink which dominated the packaging. The Panel concluded that the packaging overall was not designed in a way which would have particular appeal to under-18s. The Panel also concluded that the product was not intended to be marketed at children.
The Panel then discussed the use of the term ‘girls’ in the context of an alcoholic product. The Panel noted that the primary definition of ‘girls’, and likewise ‘boys’, related to children, and therefore expressed concern about the use of either term on an alcoholic drink. The Panel was mindful of the need for its decisions to leave a relatively narrow margin for the use of terms used to describe children, on packaging which contains alcohol. In this case the use of the phrase ‘beer for girls’ created, however unintentionally, a link between beer and children. The Panel did not therefore consider this packaging to fall within that acceptable margin. The Panel concluded therefore that the product unintentionally breached the Code by creating an inadvertent appeal to female children who would relate to the term ‘girls’. Accordingly, the Panel upheld the product under Code rule 3.2(h).
The Panel discussed whether there was anything else about the product that could breach the Code. The Panel said it was concerned to note that the side of the beer included the text ‘It’s time to throw a Molotov cocktail through the glass ceiling’. The Panel agreed that it was inappropriate to reference a Molotov cocktail on an alcoholic drink. The Panel noted however that the phrase was being used in the context of breaking the professional barriers that exist for a given demographic; it was in small font on the back label and amongst other text. The Panel therefore did not uphold the product under Code rule 3.2(b) as they concluded that the product was not realistically inciting violence.
Action by the Company
To be confirmed.