AB InBev, EE and Boots all fall foul of the ASA. Is it that hard to get it right?

This weeks ASA rulings are out and some big brands are in disgrace. A colourful cartoon TV ad for AB InBev’s Camden Town Brewery has been banned for appealing to under 18s; EE’s TV and digital campaign failed to provide enough information to verify its comparisons; and Boots has been caught promoting infant formula on Google.

These are big advertisers with reputable agencies and they have all found excuses for their failure to comply, but it still looks shoddy.

IAB InBev’s defence was that the campaign, created by Wieden + Kennedy London, was not a cartoon. It’s in the more adult South Park/Family Guy vein, and the ad was only shown at 18-plus target times. But the ASA said that the bright colours and “amiable” characters meant that it’s irresponsible and gave it a ban.

EE’s TV, OOH and online campaign – part of Saatchi & Saatchi’s long running Kevin Bacon series – claimed that the mobile operator is the UK’s number one network for 5G, but the ASA discredited the claim due to a lack of verifiable evidence.

Boots’ excuse for advertising infant formula was that Google pulls products from the Boots website using an automatic feed and the exclusion list had not been updated, never mind that the UK signed up to formula milk advertising rules 26 years ago. Google and Boots both seem to be blaming each other for this mess up.

Are the rules not clear enough? Do brands not take the rules seriously? Are the processes all wrong? Whatever the reason, ASA ad bans are a blot on the copybook.

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