The scene ended with the man, who appeared to be a teenager, falling headfirst on the ground, with text stating “don’t Dew this at home”. It then cut to a group of men – one of whom had his arm in a cast – cheering and spraying the drink over themselves.
The spot, which appeared on various gaming apps, a video sharing site and a social media website, sparked complaints challenging whether the ad was harmful because it featured a young adult engaging in dangerous behaviour.
Separate complaints also challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because it appeared in media like to be seen by children.
Mountain Dew owner PepsiCo said the ad was intended to be “tongue in cheek” rather than causing harm, offence or encouraging emulation. PepsiCo added that this intention was reinforced by the “don’t Dew this at home” strapline, which it said spelt out to viewers that it was not intended to depict a realistic scenario and strongly discouraged emulation.
In response to the second complaint, PepsiCo said its policy was not to advertise directly to children and that the ad was targeted at 16- to 24-year-olds.
For the gaming apps, it increased the minimum age for the targeted demographic to 18-years-old. The company also stopped buying further media that might show the ad to children following the complaints.
PepsiCo added that the ad did not depict children, or show children in hazardous situations, because it had used stunt men over the age of 18.
The Advertising Standards Authority said the scene was a realistic one and that the on-screen text was a play on the name of the product, rather than a direct caution that discouraged viewers from copying the stunt.
The watchdog said the “dangerous and reckless” nature of the stunt and the celebratory actors, one of whom had clearly sustained an injury, led to the conclusion that the ad could encourage emulation of an unsafe practice and result in harm.
It also noted that the style and graphics of the apps in which the ad appeared were likely to appeal to children and that it was not clear until the end of the ad whether the actors were teenagers or young adults.
The ASA concluded that the ad was likely to have a strong appeal to under 16s and was therefore irresponsible. It ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form.