Diageo allowed to “Paint the Town Black” with Guinness

Diageo invented “Arthur’s Day” in 2009, to mark the 250th anniversary of the opening of Arthur Guinness’s first brewery in Dublin on September 26th. Since then it has become a ‘pseudo national holiday” marked with music sessions in most pubs and a significant lift in sales of Guinness.

We raised our first objection to the slogan Guinness used to promote Arthur’s Day in November 2012 with the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI). The complaint was rejected outright. ASAI said “We do not consider that the advertising (Paint the Town Black) involves encouragement by the advertiser to overindulge in the product.”

We raised our second objection in March 2013 when Guinness used the slogan again, this time to promote St Patrick’s Day. The following invitation was from their website;

“Paint your town black this St Patrick’s weekend, St Patrick’s Day is coming. Get your friends together to paint the town black for the celebration of the year”

We complained this campaign blatantly encourages overindulgence in alcohol. The slogan “Paint the town black” is coined from the phrase “Paint the town red”. The website “phrases.org.uk” describes the slogan “Paint the town red”….”to engage in a riotous spree”. The allusion is to the kind of unruly behaviour that results in much blood being spilt.

This time ASAI accepted the complaint and took it to Diageo. There was a long period of engagement between ASAI and Diageo. In September 2013 we received notice to say; The secretariat recommends that “the complaint should be upheld” and the following action be taken; “The complaints Committee told the advertisers not to use the phrase “Paint the Town Black in any future advertising”

We were very pleased at this decision, it was our first success in many complaints about alcohol advertising

We then received a letter from the ASAI on the 25th October 2013 to say “The Complaints Committee has since reviewed the case and taking account of all submissions has decided that the complaint should not be upheld”

We expressed our shock and  disappointment at the about turn and asked how could the Complaints Committee of ASAI overturn a recommendation by the secretariat.

We also said Diageo too must be surprised and delighted with overturned recommendation

Which means Diageo are allowed to use “Paint the Town Black” for all future  Guinness campaigns where and when they wish

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