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Water Cooler Creative Advertising

Brewdog’s obscured ‘Fuck You CO2’ ads banned by regulator


By John Glenday, Reporter

November 18, 2020 | 4 min read

You may not be anywhere near the office water cooler right now, but we still want to spotlight the most talked about creative from the brands that should be on your radar. Today, irreverent beer brand Brewdog has landed itself in hot water thanks to a series of nationwide ads spelling out ‘F**k You’ to carbon emissions.


Brewdog’s obscured ’Fuck You CO2’ ads has been banned

A foul-mouthed Brewdog poster and press campaign has fallen foul of the Advertising Standards Authority, after its ’Fuck You CO2. Brewdog Beer Is Now Carbon Negative’ message was banned, despite a strategically placed beer can partially obscuring the curse word.

Ran back in August, the profane messaging popped up at high profile locations around the UK including Camden Town Centre, Northumberland Street in Newcastle and George Square, Glasgow, to pull the gaze of passersby.

Those who missed outdoor advertising could catch-up in identical press ads carried by the Metro, The Week and The Economist in full and double-page spread variants featuring typically flowery language from the Aberdeenshire brewer.

The four-letter stunt marks a PR boast that its beer can be drunk guilt-free following a £30m climate action programme that has seen Brewdog purchase 2,050 acres of land near Loch Lomond where it has committed to plant 1 million trees and restore 650 acres of peatland. By doing so Brewdog will create a carbon offset sufficient to cover the CO2 costs associated with the day to day running of its business.

While this altruistic act is commendable the publicity surrounding it was less so, with the ASA taking exception to use of the expletive even if it was partially obscured, with proximity to schools and religious buildings being an exacerbating factor.

Articulating the reasoning behind the ban the ASA wrote: ”We considered the word ’Fuck’ was so likely to offend a general audience that such a reference should not appear in media where it was viewable by such an audience.”

Swearing by its creative messaging BrewDog pointed out that all the media titles had approved the ad as suitable for their readers and pointed to Newcastle City Council which had authorised public display.

Nevertheless, the ad was banned and must not run again across any out-of-home Sites or The Metro.

Responding to the ruling, BrewDog co-founder, James Watt said: “Today the Advertising Standards Authority banned our activism advert."

“The ASA can go fuck themselves. We are in the midst of an existential climate crisis. Thank you to the Metro, The Week, The Economist and billboard sites for understanding the importance of our carbon negative campaign."

Yesterday BrewDog made headlines with the launch of its sustainability manifesto ’Make Earth Great Again’, marked by flying a hot air balloon emblazoned with the words ’Cop Out’ concerning postponement of the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

BrewDog is well versed in the fine art of courting scandal, having authored a succession of promotional campaigns exploring the boundaries of good taste; from a transphobic ad in which the founders posed in drag to packaging its beer in the carcasses of dead animals.

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