Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Portman Group

Brewing beer is a wonderful way to enjoy working life. What could possibly be more satisfying than taking natural, delicious and wholesome ingredients and, using your skills, creating a refreshing beverage that truly enriches the lives of many people? Benjamin Franklin said 'beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy', which pretty much sums it up (ironically, I could almost find that beer is proof God exists).

However, beer has alcohol in it and is mildly intoxicating, which counts as potentially dangerous to the minority of our society that are vulnerable. And so, rightly or not, it is lumped in with the less mildly intoxicating beverages, those that constitute a very real danger to the vulnerable, and beer is thus regulated.

One element of this regulation is the marketing & promotion of alcohol products to prevent the unscrupulous profiting from this vulnerable group. In the UK this regulation is undertaken voluntarily, by the industry itself, under close scrutiny from the government, the media & a small element of the health lobby (mainly liver specialists). The body responsible for ensuring we don't target the vulnerable is the Portman Group and they have a code of practice to guide us in our marketing efforts. This code 'bans' us from saying our drinks will get you laid, that they are healthy & that they are really strong (and that that, in itself, is a good thing). The code also prevents us from associating our products with violent or aggressive behaviour.

All very sensible stuff for a responsible Britain. And it's far better that we, the industry, regulate openly, under scrutiny, rather than civil servants & politicians doing it in dark rooms.

A week ago we received a phone call from a very nice lady at the Portman Group gently informing us that a member of the public, having scanned our web site, had made a complaint regarding the art work on one of our beers, the Dark Conspiracy. The inclusion, in the art work, of an image of the Kray twins led this person to conclude that we contravened section 3.2(b) "suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous or antisocial

You know all about Dark Conspiracy - a collaboration (hence 'conspiracy') between three brewers. It's dark, hence 'dark'. Now, what better image to illustrate a dark conspiracy than the Kray twins, with the associated 60's stitch up between politicians, gangsters & the media? None, I'd say. So that's the background to the imagery. Does it contravene the code? Well, it is an image of latent aggression, you may argue, but no more so than the following images or names, I would counter:

Which of these contravenes the code, and how does it differ from the others?

It poses an interesting question, and, by pure coincidence, I was able to put the question to the CEO of the Portman Group at the SIBA annual conference last week - he was unable to answer. I await our fate with interest.


Publican Sam said...

Well said sir!

Pog said...

Cheers dears - and take the opinion of an old hack: there is no such thing as bad publicity!