Take Courage in the face of idiocy

take-courage-1961Out 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?

takecourageThe 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.

0 thoughts on “Take Courage in the face of idiocy

  1. Or, of course, they and their marketeers could presumably just opt out of the voluntary, private, self-regulating body that is the ASA — owned and operated by the advertisers themselves.

    But then there’d be a risk of some actual real regulation in marketing, and that wouldn’t be on, right?

  2. I don’t think the ASA play the numbers game, one complaint is all it takes for them to investigate. And if you look into judgements made on the ASA website you’ll see it’s often rival companies that do the complaining.

    1. Boak – it’s probably my age, but I found it funny …

      One very good point has been made by the blog of the UK Libertarian Party pointing out that the whole basis of this ad from the NHS is that alcohol gives you courage, albeit unwarranted – so if that ad can effectively say drink gives you confidence, why are W&Y in trouble for an ad that might possibly, if the wind was in the wrong direction, be interpreted as saying the same thing?

  3. […] The banning of this advert on the basis of three complaints, has been so widely reported that I couldn’t think of anything further to add. It is of course, nannying at its most extreme and has the added annoyance of shutting down an attempt to revive a historic slogan. The ASA’s action has broken another small and fragile link with the past. […]

  4. replying to an old thread, I know, but I’ve just complained to the ASA for an ad that I really do find offensive (if my guess is right about the product).

    In TV, print, cinema, online & poster ads it says –

    “Carling – made with 100% British Barley”

    To me, the normal reading of this would be that this is an all barley-malt beer, using solely British-grown barley . . . but I have my doubts as to whether Carling is all barley-malt.

    (the packaging says “contains wheat”, but I reckon there’s a load of corn or brewer’s sugar in there too)

    That they’ve chosen to word it this way is, to me, intentionally misleading – cynically trading on the kudos of the commonly held view that “100% barley” is a good thing for a beer to be made from.

    Anyone care to join in & try to get it banned?

    I’ll even help them re-write it –

    “Made from 100% British Barley, American Corn, Indian Rice & a homeopathic amount of the cheapest hops we can find”

    Seems like a job for the new/proposed “Lagers of the British Isles” group? see –

    (not my blog, but a goodie!)

  5. I can’t see the harm in this ancient phrase I was once in the company of a senior SA officer who was of course strictly tee-total (fool) he was delighted by the phrase and when he was told it was for beer he did not change his mind
    It does show that both the ASA and the complainants are humourless wassocks Both can get lost!

  6. Not sure if you’ll read this four years on. Never mind, here goes. I’ve come across this page while researching the origin of the ‘Take Courage’ slogan. I cannot believe it only originated around 1950 because I have a brown stoneware jug that my mum picked up in a junk shop in the 1960s. It was old then. It has a crude representation of the cockerel logo and the words ‘Take Courage’ around its middle. Each letter has been individually stamped into the clay and are very uneven. It looks early 20th century at least. With its provenance (and a chip) it cannot be a fake.

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