Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) launched its “Unexpected Ginger” campaign in February to mark the release of their new Rusty Yak Ginger Ale, which included a 15-second and 30-second TV advertisement.
In the ad, a narrator describes discovering the “surprising” gene for red hair “floating around in our beer, just like it’s been floating around in human DNA” and goes on to call for consumers to “stop the spread of the gene” by searching its six-pack bottles for ones marked with special “ginger gene” labels.
The announcer notes that ginger bottles are ‘hiding’ in regular Yak Ale six packs, stating that anyone who found the limited edition bottles would be rewarded with a $500 prize.
One complainant wrote: “It’s very offensive for the advertisement to be discriminating against those with red hair, suggesting that they need to ‘stop the gene spreading’ as if it were some sort of disease. Children already get bullied at school for having red hair, and advertisements like this only further encourage that type of bullying. Offensive, racist, and encouraging bullying of a minority group. It is disgraceful.”
Responding to complaints, CUB said the campaign was intended as a “lighthearted” way to bring the Rusty Yak brand to life.
“The Advertisements simply seek to associate the launch of the Rusty Yak Ginger Ale product with red heads in our community in an affectionate, light-hearted and humorous way by linking the hair colour with the ‘crisp and zingy Rusty Yak gingery flavour’ as stated in the Advertisements,” a statement read, adding: “The line in the Advertisements asking consumers to help ‘stop the spread of the gene’, which line is raised in the complaints, is a reference to the fictitious ‘ginger gene’ in the products, not in people, and invites consumers to look for bottles of the new product hidden in regular packs of Yak Ales to win a cash prize. In any case, this line is not literal and clearly humorous with a subtext that the products are full of ginger flavour due to the fictitious ‘ginger gene’ in the products.”
However the bureau disagreed, upholding the complaint and banning the advert, saying that it vilified people with red hair and was it was likely to incite ridicule.