Out of the 49 million adults in the UK it apparently only takes three idiots to complain for a 60-year-old advertising slogan to be banned by the Advertising Standards Authority.
The phrase “Take Courage” has been in use by the brewers of Courage since at least 1950, when the beer still came from the Anchor brewery hard by Tower Bridge: the earliest mention I have been able to find is from a book on “Royal Windsor’ published that year which contained an advertisement for the Royal Oak pub:
For good beer, good cheer, a friendly atmosphere and a ready welcome, at all times, visit the “ROYAL OAK” Opposite Windsor Station LUNCHEONS PARTY CATERING tel Windsor 1179
Whenever you see a cockerel
the cockerel, of course, being the Courage trademark.
Another early mention of the slogan comes in an article from a publication called the American Magazine, which covered a trip to Europe in 1952, and which is worth reprinting because of the fabulous picture it gives of pub life in the first year of Queen Elizabeth II:
Stopped next at a family-style pub with little old ladies lining the wall like chaperones at a school dance. They gossip and watch goings-on, including us. A woman in spectacles and a tired fur piece got up and sang a song. Left pub early because we fly to Paris at 9am.. Saw sign saying ‘Take Courage Here.’ Learned Courage is a brand of beer. Long live England!
Alas, in the 57th year of Liz’s reign, when Wells and Young’s, who now brew Courage beers at Bedford, decided to press the old slogan into new service, a trio of feckwits complained to the ASA that the ad showing a woman in a new dress clearly asking the question all men know must be answered “No, darling, certainly not” really implied that the beer the man was drinking “would give him confidence to either make negative comments on the woman’s appearance or take advantage of her.” Take advantage of her? What strange planet do this people beam down from?
The ASA, demonstrating that you have to have a senseofhumourectomy before you can become an advertising watchdog, has ruled that “Although we understood the humorous intention of the scenario” – well, no, I don’t think you do, actually – “we concluded that the poster breached the [advertising] code by suggesting that the beer could increase confidence.” Clearly no one at the ASA ever has a drink, either, because as a number of commentators have pointed out, alcohol DOES increase confidence, whether the ASA wishes it or not, and making jokes about that fact is perfectly legitimate.
Since the number of people who have turned on the ASA over its decision – see for example the commentators on Pete Brown’s blog here, the wonderful mickytake by the Daily Mash here and the pretty predictable ranting by the commentators at the Daily Mail – now vastly outnumber the three plonkers who complained, justice demands that Wells and Young’s succeeds in its planned appeal against the ASA decision. However, what justice demands and what justice gets frequently don’t match up.
Still, as the hoo-ha has gathered publicity for Courage bitter around the world, in Russia, in China and Italy to finger only three places, cynics might almost think W&Y got three of its own people to complain to the ASA, just for the global column inches. Unfortunately this is unlikely to be true: instead it’s just another example of the new puritanism. If you have been affected by the issues raised in this blog, contact the ASA and tell them they’ve turned their own organisation into a joke by failing to get the joke, and they should rescind this stupid ban ASA-P.