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CUB’s Ginger Gene ad banned for ‘vilifying’ red heads

Carlton and United Breweries’ (CUB) Rusty Yak Gingery Ale campaign has been banned by the ad watchdog for “vilifying” those with red hair.

Complaints posted to Ad Standards labeled the ad – which asks consumers to “stop the spread of the Ginger Gene” which has been “floating around in our DNA” – as “offensive”, “racist”, “bullying” and “discriminating”.

“It’s very offensive for the advertisement to be discriminating against those with red hair, suggesting that they need to ‘stop the gene spreading’ as if it were some sort of disease. Children already get bullied at school for having red hair, and advertisements like this only further encourage that type of bullying,” one complaint said.

The ad was created by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne and encourages consumers to help stop the spread of the Ginger Gene, by searching for hidden Rusty Yak Ginger Ales in regular Yak six packs.

CUB said “with respect” the ad does not discriminate or vilify against race or breach the rules because “the complaints address discrimination and vilification against people on account of their red hair, but this attribute does not fall within race”.

The advertiser said the ad associates Rusty Yak Ginger Ale and red heads in an affectionate, “light-hearted and humours way”.

“The advertisements do not promote discrimination or vilification as defined above in a literal or figurative way given the theme and overall impression of the advertisements is not negative towards red heads, but rather a humorous and comical announcement that we have discovered ‘the ginger gene’ in our beer,” CUB added.

Ad Standards said having red hair did fall under the race definition because “DNA can be considered to be related to ancestry and descent and therefore considered that in this context the reference to people with red hair falls within the definition of race”.

Despite most of the images of those with red hair being positive, the line in the ad which says “stop the spread of the gene”, contradicted the positive imagery, the watchdog said.

“The phrase ‘stop the spread of the gene’ overstepped the line between being light-hearted humour and made a strong suggestion that an identifiable group of the population was to be considered unpopular,” the watchdog concluded, upholding the complaint.

CUB did not agree with Ad Standards’ determination but has removed the ad out of “respect for the complaints”.

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