An in-game ad for Mountain Dew Energy drink seen on various gaming-apps, a video sharing and a social media website, featured what appeared to be a teenager on a snowboard. The scene began with him sliding down an escalator. As he reached the bottom he grabbed a rope thrown to him by another teenager from the back of a moving underground train. He then jumped from the platform andsurfed along the tracks on the snowboard and made celebratory gestures. He then fell headfirst onto the ground. The scene then cut towhite noise with text stating don’t Dew this at home . The final scene showed a group of men cheering and spraying the drink over themselves. One of the men’s arms was in a cast.
- Four complainants challenged whether the ad was harmful because it featured a young adult engaging in dangerous behaviour which could encourage emulation.
- Three complainants challenged whether it was irresponsible as it appeared in media likely to be seen by, or have particular appeal to children.
ASA Assessment: Complaints Upheld
The ASA acknowledged that the scene depicted in the ad was not a UK underground system. Despite this, we considered that the scene was a realistic one and the on-screen text was a play on the name of the product rather than a direct caution that discouraged viewers from emulating similar stunts. Whilst we appreciated that the location was not similar to UK underground systems, it was likely to be familiar due to TV programmes and films. Because of the realistic nature of the ad, its familiarity, the dangerous and reckless nature of the stunt and the celebratory actors, one of whom had clearly sustained an injury, we concluded that the ad could encourage emulation of an unsafe practice and result in harm.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code rules 1.3 (Social responsibility), and 4.5 (Harm and offence).
We acknowledged that, after being informed of the complaints, Pepsi had taken steps to ensure the ad was not supported on apps that could be seen by under 18-year-olds. They nevertheless believed the ad clearly depicted a teenager or young adult performing the stunt, not a child. However, we noted that the style and graphics of the apps in which the ad appeared were likely to appeal to children and that it was not clear until the end of the ad whether the actors were teenagers or young adults. Pepsi said the actors were stunt men over the age of 18. However, we concluded that, because the ad was seen in media that was likely to have strong appeal to under-16s, it was irresponsible.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code rules 1.3 (Social responsibility), 4.4, 4.5 (Harm and offence), 5.1 and 5.1.4 (Children). Action
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told PepsiCo International Ltd not to use this ad in future.