Anti-alcohol campaigners, Alcohol Concern, complained to the drinks industry trade group in its self regulating role as drinks censor:
We would like to ask the Panel to consider whether the Heineken UK beer packaging and marketing using an image of the armed character of James Bond is in breach of Section 3.2(b) of the Code, which states that a drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way… suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous or anti-social behaviour .
We note that in May 2012, the Panel ruled against a pump clip produced by the Ramsgate Brewery since it felt that the Kray Twins [shown on the clip] were intrinsically linked with violence and aggression and were also relevant and contemporary . We would maintain that this is equally true of James Bond, particularly given the high degree of violence in recent Bond films.
Given that James Bond is a character who is also well known for his sexual success and unusually heavy drinking, we suggest that this marketing campaign is also in breach of Sections 3.2(d) and 3.2(f) of the Code, which prohibit any association direct or indirect with sexual activity or sexual success or with irresponsible or immoderate consumption .
Portman Group Decision:
Under Code paragraph 3.2(b): NOT UPHELD
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous or anti-social behaviour.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(d): NOT UPHELD
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with sexual activity or sexual success.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(f): NOT UPHELD
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way encourage illegal, irresponsible or immoderate consumption, such as drink-driving, binge-drinking or drunkenness.
The Panel recognised that James Bond is a brave, daring and sometimes violent fictional character. However, the Panel did not believe that the use of a stylised image of a known fictional character would lead the average consumer to draw similarities between themselves and the character depicted.
The Panel discussed the use of an image of a pistol, which they considered for some time. The Panel noted that despite the pistol, the image itself is not of a violent nature and does not allude to or focus on violent or aggressive behaviour. In this case the Panel considered that the pistol is displayed in a stylised pose and is not depicted as being used to shoot or to cause harm, nor is the pistol a prominent feature on the packaging. The Panel agreed that including an image of a gun on packaging carries a high risk of creating an association with violent behaviour; however, on balance, the Panel were satisfied that the stylised motif of James Bond in his trademark silhouette stance serves mainly to draw attention to the wider James Bond brand rather than violent behaviour. Accordingly, the Panel did not uphold the product under Code rule 3.2(b).
The Panel considered whether imagery used on the product suggested any association with sexual activity/success or with immoderate/ irresponsible consumption. The Panel could not find any reason why the use of the stylised image of James Bond or reference to the wider James Bond brand would lead consumers to believe that the product may suggest an association with sexual success/activity or would encourage consumers to consume the product immoderately or irresponsibly. For instance, there were no other images on the packaging (such as a woman) which could give rise to this association. Accordingly, the Panel did not uphold the product under Code rules 3.2(d) or (f).