A poster for the drink, seen on 11 September on the London Underground network, featured two cartoon women in front of a can of Red Bull and a poem alluding to finishing office tasks quickly and the catchphrase “Red Bull gives you wiiings”.
This text was followed by a picture of a clock at the 4pm mark pulling a flag that stated: “For a flying 4pm finish on 14th September, visit Redbull.co.uk.4pmFinish.”
One complainant claimed the ad promoted Red Bull as having a beneficial effect on health, particularly focus and concentration, which was a health claim that must comply with the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP code).
The Red Bull company argued the poster was promoting a consumer initiative – the 4pm finish – and did not suggest, either directly or implicitly, that consumption of Red Bull would help achieve certain goals. Neither, it claimed, did the ad suggest the drink delivered a health benefit.
The company said the ad called for people to be efficient and complete their work faster to be able to leave early, which was not a health benefit. It also pointed to a previous ruling by the ASA, which found that the brand catchphrase did not suggest a health benefit.
While the ASA considered the ad’s tone was light-hearted, the scenario it presented of being overwhelmed or busy at work was one that would be familiar and relatable to consumers.
Implied health benefits
It said: “While we understood that the ad was intended to be part of a marketing initiative aimed at encouraging consumers to improve their productivity and leave at 4pm on a specific day, we considered that the penultimate line of the poem, ‘… to leap every hurdle a hectic day brings’ implied that Red Bull could help improve consumers’ mental focus, concentration and energy levels.
“We considered the picture of the can, the artwork and the text made clear the ad was for Red Bull and that any implied health claims in the ad were in respect of that product.”
The advertising watchdog ruled the ad was in breach of the CAP code and that it must not appear again in its current form. It told the Red Bull company not to imply that Red Bull could increase focus and concentration when those claims were not authorised on the EU Register.