The Let There Be Beer TV advert has been banned by the ASA

Advertising watchdogs have ruled that a TV ad for brewing industry marketing campaign Let There Be Beer cannot be shown again in its current form.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling is the latest blow for the generic campaign, which is funded by five major breweries, and has come in for criticism since it was launched this summer to boost the performance of the ailing beer category. The ad was first screened at the end of June, just before British Beer & Pub Association figures showed total volume sales of beer had fallen to their lowest level since 1999.

Campaign organisers the Coalition of UK Brewers have been told the ad cannot be broadcast again after the ASA upheld a four-count complaint by the Alcohol Concern Youth Alcohol Advertising Council that the ad implied alcohol could contribute to an individual’s popularity; implied drinking alcohol was a key component of social success; portrayed alcohol as indispensable and that drinking could overcome problems; and implied alcohol had therapeutic qualities.

The ad, first screened in June, featured three main stories set to the chorus of the song “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”. One featured a host tending a summer barbecue; another a young man meeting his girlfriend’s father; and the third a busy office worker waiting to leave work. All three stories ended with spectacular events: the barbecue host leaping into an ice bucket and emerging with a beer; a fishtank exploding as the young man and his girlfriend’s dad drunk a beer; and beer taps exploding around the office worker in a bar.

The Coalition of UK Brewers, which comprises ABInBev, Carlsberg, Heineken, Miller Brands and Molson Coors, said the ad was meant to be an exaggerated interpretation of the real world and was intended to “celebrate the role beer can play in life in a light-hearted, amusing way that would allow the viewer to draw a distinction between real-life situations and the highly unrealistic scenes and outcomes in the ad”.

However, the ASA felt that the story of the young man meeting his girlfriend’s father could be considered to imply alcohol contributed to his popularity and confidence, and that beer was responsible for the change of mood and behaviour, and was likely to be seen as a key component of social success. It also said the ad suggested alcohol was portrayed as a way of overcoming problems such as, in the case of the barbecue host, being hot and uncomfortable, and in the case of the office worker, of having a large workload.

Let There Be Beer has come in for criticism since it launched. Marketing experts suggested the TV ad was “preaching to the converted” and was unlikely to bring new consumers to the category, while bloggers have claimed activity was too focused on the biggest brewers’ brands.

The ASA last week rejected complaints that two extended TV ads shown during the programme Sunday Brunch were not obviously identifiable as marketing activity.