According to AdFreak, one of the latest entries in IRN-BRU's always-cheeky "Gets you through" campaign provoked 176 complaints to the UK Advertising Standards Authority:
1. Most complainants challenged whether the ads were offensive and irresponsible, because they considered that the scenario between the mother and young men was sexual and inappropriate.
2. Some complainants challenged whether the ads were sexist and demeaning to women.
3. Some viewers challenged whether ad (a) was inappropriately scheduled at a time when children could have been viewing.Here is the advertiser's defence:
AG Barr plc (AG Barr) stated that the premise of the campaign was using IRN-BRU to cope with awkward situations and the ads under investigation dealt with how parents could unwittingly embarrass their teenage children. AG Barr said they had been conscious that the ads should stay true to the traditionally cheeky and irreverent sense of humour of IRN-BRU ads, but should not objectify women, carry any tone of a sexual nature or cause offence. They said they did not consider that the scene between the mum and young men was sexual or inappropriate and felt there was no lasciviousness or flirting between the mum and the boys. They stated that the friends were simply reacting to the mum's new clothing in the way you would expect them to and that the mum was completely oblivious to the reaction she was drawing from her son's friends. They said the central focus of the ad was the son's embarrassment and the comedic and surreal concept that IRN-BRU would help him deal with such an awkward situation, and that humour relied on the mum's innocence. They added that the young men were not reacting in a way that portrayed sexuality, nor were they colluding in a salacious fashion, but were rather transfixed by the mum's appearance. They said all three male actors were aged 19 to 21 years.
They considered that the mum was dressed in a way which did not display a gratuitous amount of cleavage, this they felt reinforced the lack of sexual undertone and pointed out that the mum was very matter of fact when she delivered the line "New push up bra - amazing, eh?". They said the line was delivered as a straightforward observation about the new addition to her wardrobe, in the same way she would announce that she was wearing new shoes, and, similarly, the delivery of the line "Group hug?" was also in a light-hearted and friendly tone with no hint of flirtation.
The ASA is notoriously skittish about sex in advertising, so you might expect that an ad with teenage boys ogling a mom's cleavage would get pulled pretty quickly. But in a surprise ruling, the standards body cleared the ad.
From The Guardian:
In its ruling, the ASA noted that the interaction between the mum and the two boys did not constitute irresponsible behaviour.
"Although we noted that some complainants had interpreted the action in the ads as portraying an inappropriate relationship between the mum and the son's friends, we did not consider that their interaction was a portrayal of irresponsible behaviour," it said.
"We considered that the action relied on the mum being confident and attractive, but not consciously or overtly behaving in a sexualised or flirtatious way. We also considered that the focus of the ads was the son's embarrassment at the effect his mum's appearance was having on his friends.
"Therefore, and particularly in the context of ads intended to portray a surreal and light-hearted comedic approach, we did not consider that the action or depiction of the female protagonist was sexist or demeaning and concluded that the ads were not in breach of the code."Interesting development.