In a media statement announcing the retraction of the radio and bill-board ad campaign, South African Breweries says ‘the complaint has never been adjudicated by the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa, however, as a proactive measure SAB has decided to withdraw the advert’. In light of the complaint, the beer company went a step further and it has withdrawn a secondary Carling Black Label ad, with the slogan, ‘Bigger is Better’.
Sonke Gender Justice Network, endorsed by a number of other organisations had laid a complaint against SA Breweries with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), contending that in its promotion of the 750 ml Carling Black Label, the SAB was encouraging excessive drinking and promoting the wrong ideals of being a man. The network was particularly concerned with the juxtaposition of the brand’s biggest 750 ml bottle alongside the smaller pint, with the pay-off line: ‘Groot man of laaitie’, which basically asks: Are you a big man or a small boy?
‘In our view this advert promotes excessive drinking, but plays around the issue of what it means to be a man – the notion that, ‘n groot man, as it puts it in the advert, ‘vra vir ‘n hele 750ml bottle’. And, therefore, the question that is posed by the advert is: ‘Are you a laaitie or are you a real man?’ We think it’s very irresponsible in a society where we already have huge problems of alcohol abuse. It’s not just about how people take excessive alcohol, but the attendant problems that are related to that. We felt at this point we should really be bringing out messages that are about responsible drinking and not playing out on what I would call ‘risky masculinity notions’ to try and increase profits. We think that was irresponsible of the SAB’, explained Bafana Khumalo, co-director of Sonke Gender Justice Network.
SA Breweries was not available to comment for purposes of this report. But in a media statement announcing the retraction of the ad campaign it further wrote that:
‘It was certainly not the aim of the campaign to, in any way, encourage excessive drinking. SAB is also very mindful of the social problems in communities within South Africa and is very careful to balance its brand advertising with that of its responsibility advertising campaigns’.
In its complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority, Sonke Gender Justice Network and partners submitted a batch of research findings to support its case.
‘South Africa has the highest per capita alcohol consumption levels in the world. That is drawn from research that was done by UNISA. The Medical Research Council had done a research programme which reported that 67% of domestic violence in the Cape Metropolitan area, for instance, was alcohol-related. We also found a study conducted by Project Concern International ‘ also in the Western Cape ‘ which also reveals that 76% of all respondents said that abuse of alcohol causes violence in the community.
CADRE did a study which also found that people that regularly had five or more drinks at a time were more likely to be HIV-positive because if you had been taking a lot of alcohol and you meet somebody and things seem to be working out and you discover you don’t have condoms, what are the options? Do you think the person will say: ‘No. Okay, fine, we’ll see each other tomorrow?’ (There’s a) very slim chance of that’ Khumalo said.
But before the Authority could even adjudicate the matter, the SAB responded to Sonke’s call for the ad to be canned.
‘We received confirmation from them that they have decided to pull the advert’, Khumalo confirmed.
Although Sonke has got what it wanted ‘ the advert to be pulled ‘ Khumalo indicated that they still want the Advertising Standards Authority to follow the matter.
‘We still have lodged a complaint with the ASA. I imagine that they will have to follow their own processes. They may think that there is no point in going ahead with this now given that their principal would have pulled the advert. But I think for me it will be an important lesson for all of us if ASA still goes on with this so that, indeed, it becomes a point of education for everybody in the country around why we need responsible advertising’, he said.
Approached for comment on the way forward, the Advertising Standards Authority said: ‘Where an advertiser provides an unequivocal undertaking to withdraw or amend its advertising in a manner that addresses the concerns raised, that undertaking is accepted without considering the merits of the matter’. The response further states that: ‘This type of undertaking is usually accepted on condition that the advertisement in question is not used again in future in its current format. The South African Breweries appears to have pulled the commercial. If this has already been done we have no further role to play’.