BrewDog seems to be on a collision course with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), as promotion winners became rather 'bitter' with their prize.

BrewDog ran a promotion offering participants the chance to win one of ten 24-carat "solid gold" beer cans, which were hidden in cases of ordinary beer. BrewDog claimed the gold cans are worth £15,000.

However, when ten lucky people found the winning gold cans, some were left with a sour taste in their mouth after they discovered that they were not 'solid gold', but gold plated brass.

One winner contacted the can's makers, Thomas Lyte, who informed him that it was brass with a 24 carat gold plating. He told the BBC "I had it valued by a jewellery expert. He told me it was only worth £500. I'm just totally disappointed and I want it resolved. I legally entered a competition to win a solid gold can but I've not got that. I asked for shares to make it up to £15,000 and BrewDog basically said no, so I called the ASA."

A spokesperson for BrewDog said the use of the term "solid gold" was a mistake, but it stood by its £15,000 prize valuation, saying the estimate was made up of more than just the metal used.

Leaving aside the use of "solid gold", which seems to be clearly misleading even if done in error, it does seem reasonable for BrewDog to argue that the value of the cans are not based merely on their constituent parts.  

It is arguably a collectors' item or even a 'work of art', and it could be worth much more than £15,000 if someone is willing to pay more to get their hands on it.  After all, it would be very odd to say that collectable baseball cards or stamps are only worth the paper and ink from which they are made.

But the burden of proving that the cans are worth £15,000 lies squarely with BrewDog, not the prize winners. BrewDog has to convince the ASA the valuation is true and accurate. Given that these special gold-plated cans are so unusual and don't have a usual retail value, the company might need to get creative... 

BrewDog will take solace from the fact that the ASA's bark is worse than its bite. Even if the ASA finds there has been a breach of the CAP Code, the ASA can't impose financial penalties. And however much BrewDog has nipped at the ASA's heels over recent years, the ASA is unlikely to refer this particular matter to Trading Standards. 

Nevertheless, at some point the ASA could run out of patience if it feels that it can't teach a BrewDog new tricks.  And, in the longrun, perhaps BrewDog might find that playing fast and loose with their reputation will one day come back to bite them.


It's not surprising that the complaints were upheld, but what is surprising is that this took the ASA so long. It has been almost fourth months since I originally posted the article, above.

This wasn't a complex matter, so it isn't clear what caused this to drag on for so long.

As a general observation it can be frustrating for advertisers to be given a very short window to organise and put together their detailed response to the ASA. Usually they are given a deadline of just one week to speak to all relevant stakeholders (who could be based all around the world), consider their position, speak to their advisers, prepare, finalise and get internal sign off on their response. Sometimes, the ASA may grant a short extension (in its discretion) of a week or so if it considers it appropriate.

Then the ASA can proceed at its own unpredictable pace - sometimes taking only a couple of weeks to resolve seemingly quite contentious issues, sometimes taking a few months or more even with relatively straightforward cases (such as this one), while advertisers are left without much indication of how it will go or how long it will take, all while trying to decide on their future marketing plans.

I don't mean to pile on the ASA here because I think it does a good and unenviable job processing a high volume of complaints and investigations, usually in a very sensible and pragmatic way; but perhaps there are improvements that can be made in terms of timeframes and transparency to help advertisers/marketers to manage their future plans.

The ruling can be found here.