Well, that’s it then. Christmas, ruined. There’s one in every family. The creepy uncle. The racist nan. The English-rugby-supporting brother-in-law. The stupid root vegetable that doesn’t know how much sherry is enough sherry. They ruin it for everyone. Sometimes nearly two months after the event.
Seriously. Fucking carrots, man. They’re drunk, they’re out of control, they’re a menace, and they need to be stopped.
That, at least, is the view of the ASA, which has forbidden Aldi from running a 2017 Christmas ad the supermarket clearly had no intention of running again to make what is presumably an incredibly important point to somebody.
And in case you think I’m being facetious, I do mean ‘somebody’. One person complained. One single (ahem) person.
However, much like the Daily Mail can turn two tweets into a double-page spread about the outrage provoked on social media by Claudia Winkleman wearing a dress, so the ASA has taken that complaint, run with it, and declared war on cartoon carrots: because if this country *is* going to hell in a handcart, you can be damn sure there’s an animated orange fella at the wheel.
To give you the context: alongside its central festive love-lost-and-found carrot extravaganza, Aldi made a bunch of more product and aisle-specific bits. The creative was nice. It was what you do when you have a character central to your campaign, and when you’re a supermarket that wants to sell stuff at Christmas.
SPOILER ALERT: one of the things the supermarket wanted to sell at Christmas was booze. I know. This country, eh?
Disgruntled of Chelmsford (NB I don’t actually know where the complainant was from) was displeased.
'That carrot is a cartoon!' he or she grumbled. 'And a cartoon that is drinking. And cartoons are for kids and therefore a drunk cartoon will make kids drink... and that is what causes knife crime and Claudia Winkleman to wear a dress I don't like'.
(I’ve extrapolated the last bit.)
Now, I don’t want to assume that the person who made the complaint is the sort of person whose Caps Lock key is broken, turns to Richard Littlejohn once he’s checked the 12.20 at Catterick, still writes to Points of View, and thinks Jacob Rees-Mogg is more charming clown than homophobic, misogynist plutocrat, but, let’s be honest, some conclusions just invite you to leap to them.
However, that’s not really the point. The point here (and, for the avoidance of doubt, I’ve adopted a much more serious expression for this bit) is the ASA.
We are an industry that prides itself on self-regulation, with the ASA sitting right at the centre of that.
'We don’t need to be policed,' we yell, because we police ourselves. 'Look! Those guys, over there! The one’s getting cross with the carrot!' Specifically, the animated carrot that was starring in a pastiche of a film with a 15 certificate, that never ran anywhere near programming that children would see, because it was an alcohol ad.
Aside from the worrying precedent that ‘animation = for kids’ sets, this just feels like a perfect example of our industry sweating the small stuff, when there’s so much big stuff that ASA could and should be focusing on: get rid of gambling ads; banning anything with Paddy McGuinness or James Corden in it; sorting out the internet.
But pissed-up carrots? I think real people can manage that stuff. Particularly when said carrot literally hasn’t done anything wrong. It had an ex-kids rating. Kids wouldn’t have seen it.
And that’s at the heart of this. Ignoring the nonsense of retrospectively banning an ad that would never have run again anyway, when you ban something that very deliberately and carefully adheres to the rules you yourself have laid out, you start to make a mockery of those rules.
And if those rules don’t mean anything, it’s going to be tough to make any kind of argument for self-regulation stick in the future. And none of us wants that.
Dan Cullen-Shute is chief executive and founder of Creature of London. He tweets at @creature_dan