Heineken overturns Kronenbourg ad ban

Heineken has successfully won its appeal against the ban of two advertising campaigns for its Kronenbourg 1664 brand, which the advertising watchdog originally claimed overemphasised the beer’s French provenance.

Video: The Kronenbourg 1664 TV ad originally banned by the ASA in February this year


Among the ads originally called into question was a TV spot featuring brand ambassador and former France international footballer Eric Cantona explaining how the men of Alsace, France, are “treated like the footballers of Britain” because they grow the “noble hops” that make Kronenbourg. On screen text in the corner of the screen stated “Brewed in the UK”.

The other complaint was brought against a press ad carrying the strapline “If you find a better tasting French beer, we’ll eat our berets”, that went on to explain how French beer tastes better because it uses a Strisselspalt hop, which is used in Kronenbourg 1664. Again, small print stated: “Brewed in the UK”.

Both ads were ruled in February this year to be “misleading” by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which said consumers would believe the entire brewing and manufacturing process for Kronenbourg 1666 took place in France – not just that the hop is grown there. The ASA went on to tell Heineken not to emphasise a connection with France in future ads because the beer is brewed in the UK.

Heineken immediately responded to the ruling with a request to the independent reviewer of adjudications, Sir Hayden Phillips, as the brewer believed there were “significant flaws” with the ASA’s decision.

Sir Hayden referred the case back to the ASA Council, which on second look said the focus of the ads was the French hops, rather than the brewing process and found both ads not to be in breach of the advertising code.

Successful appeals against ASA rulings are rare – and it is rarer still for well-known brands to win their cases. In 2013 the independent reviewer of ASA adjudications received 64 review cases in total, of which just five decisions were reversed – none understood to be high-profile advertisers.

Jacob van der Linden, Heineken UK marketing director, says: “We are delighted that our advertising has finally been judged to be fully compliant with the CAP/BCAP codes and that there is no longer any suggestion that we could mislead consumers.

“Whilst we fully recognise and support the complaints process operated by the ASA as a hugely important part of effective self regulation, in this particular case, we felt very strongly that the decision to rule against us was simply wrong and would set some unintended precedents for future advertising.

“Thankfully, the independent review process enabled us to highlight our concerns, and it is reassuring that strong and effective oversight is built into the complaints process.”

This year marks the 350th anniversary of Brasseries Kronenbourg and Heineken plans to recommence advertising for the Kronenbourg 1664 brand this autumn to celebrate the milestone.