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After banning Aldi’s pissed Carrot, ASA can't be surprised at Sainsbury's ‘Plug Kid’ outrage

Sainsbury's socket boy

So. Let’s start with the facts.

A year ago, Aldi made an ad with a carrot in it. In fact, they made lots of ads with that carrot in them. The carrot was called Kevin. Kevin liked a drink. Kevin’s problematic behaviour lead to a firm slap on the wrists from a censorious ASA. Kevin sloped off, licking his wounds, lesson learned: and whatever it was that lead him to take that bend a bit too fast and leave his bright red carrot truck hanging off a cliff this time round, we can be confident that it wasn’t because he was nuzzled deep in Old Mother Festive-Booze’s creamy bosom.

The ASA had prevailed, and I trust they allowed themselves a cheeky dry sherry in celebration, as an arid Noel beckoned for root vegetables the world over.

There is, though, the distinct possibility that they might come to regret that sherry. And the - some might argue - self-righteous condemnation that preceded it.

Because this year, the people are up in arms again, and this time, it’s - again, some might argue - the most adorable moment of our Christmas advertising bonanza that’s facing their wrath.

Before we get into that, though, a bit of political theory. Yes, you heard me. Brace yourself.

There’s a piece of political theory that I’m particularly fond of, called the Overton Window. Whatever the matter at hand, so the theory goes, there is a range of policies that will be acceptable to the electorate - anything outside of the window will be ‘too left’, ‘too right’, or, in the olden days, ‘maybe a bit Nazi’. For a long time, the Overton Window had, in the UK, sat pretty resolutely across the centre of the political spectrum - then racist cabbage Nigel Farage came along, and it took, everyone agreed, a big old jump to the right. Then Jezza C turned up, and dragged it, kicking and screaming, way back to the left. Except that it didn’t shift wholesale to the left - it just stretched: suddenly, there was no political view so extreme that it couldn’t be reliably counted upon to win votes. Whichever flavour of ‘it’s been proven to kill millions of people’ political extremism you were a fan of, you’d find folks to vote for you. The Overton Window was pretty much fucked.

And while I’d love to think it was a positive force that drove its destruction, the truth is that we in the UK have found a much more powerful addiction than self-belief, or pilates, or even the X-Factor. We’re all off our tits on outrage, our affiliations are driven by what we really sodding hate, rather than what we love/believe, and I blame the ASA.

Am I saying everything is the ASA’s fault? Do I blame them for the fact that journalists now spend hours scouring Twitter for the angry face emoji so they can write articles about a nation’s fury? Do I blame them for Aaron ‘Nobody Knows Quite What He Does, But He’s Clearly A Shit Bond Villain’ Banks? Do I blame them for Noel being voted off I’m A Celeb first?

Maybe not. Maybe not *all* of that.

But when you tell people they were right to be cross about a little orange chap called Kevin who’s just trying to knock the edges off a fraught family Christmas, you can’t be surprised when, a year later, those self-same people think you might be up for a bit of a barney about a kid, dressed as a plug, throwing himself into an oversized socket. Because that’s what’s happened.

I could put a serious advertising face on here, and ask some searching questions about what exactly those people think is likely to be emulated about that panto-act, but I think I’ll leave that to the excellent folk at Wiedens and Clearcast, who I’m sure are preparing their straight-faced arguments as I speak (and hey, if we see a rash of jumping-at-walls related injuries over Christmas, I’ll be the first to hold my hands up).

Instead, I’m going to ask a favour of the ASA. I’m going to ask that they don’t just reject these complaints - which, surely, isn’t much of an ask - but they issue a public statement telling everyone who’s complained that they’re not cross, they’re just disappointed. That enough is enough. And that if they don’t lighten the fuck up and start enjoying Christmas, then the advent fairies won’t be visiting them, that Santa will take a sharp turn at the top of their road, and that maybe, just maybe, they need to follow the lead of pissed-up carrot that started this whole shit-show, and have a drink and chill the fuck out.

Dan Cullen-Shute is chief executive and founder of Creature of London. He tweets at @creature_dan

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