ASA does not condemn the Spitfire Ale Nazi SS advert, but Shepherd Neame do not plan to repeat it

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The Advertising Standards Authority has finally published their Adjudication on the the offensive Nazi Shepherd Neame Spitfire Ale advert in the Evening Standard newspaper.

Despite a preliminary recommendation to the contrary, the ASA Council have decided that the advert did not breach their CAP Code, the voluntary British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing.

However, Shepherd Neame do appear to have promised not to repeat the advert, which is, in effect, all that would have happened if the ASA had found against them, since this is a voluntary Code of Practice, which is only enforced by "naming and shaming" the offenders, with no legal sanctions.

The Daily Telegraph wrongly misattributed our comments on this blog about this affair to Ken Livingstone, who does not need anyone else to put words into his mouth, whilst he is also putting his foot in it.

Non-broadcast Adjudication about Shepherd Neame Ltd. published on 1st March 2006:

Shepherd Neame Ltd 17 Court Street Faversham Kent ME13 7AX Date: 1st March 2006 Media: Regional press Sector: Alcohol Public Complaints From: London, Middlesex, Surrey, Wiltshire


Objections, to an ad in the Evening Standard for Spitfire beer. The ad stated "__SS German lager (4)" in the style of a crossword clue. The letters "SS" were written in the style of the Nazi SS insignia. The complainants objected that the use of the Nazi insignia in the ad was grossly offensive.

Codes Section: 5.1 (Ed 11)


Complaints not upheld
Shepherd Neame said the Spitfire campaign had run for eight years and was very popular. They said the campaign used wartime humour at the expense of Germans, similar to that used in the TV programmes "Allo allo" and "Dad's Army", that evoked the "Blighty spirit" of that era. They said they had used over 80 different ads in the campaign and that none of them had been found to be in breach of the Code. They conceded that the humour was, at times, edgy but said that it was not their intention to offend. Shepherd Neame acknowledged that the ad used the SS insignia and accepted that, as a symbol of Nazi oppression, it could be highly evocative to some. They apologised to any readers who had been offended by the ad. They believed that, because the SS insignia was the butt of a joke, the ad did not glorify the symbol and would not cause serious or widespread offence to readers. They said the ad appeared only once and only in the Evening Standard. They said they had no plans to repeat the ad.

The Evening Standard said the ad was part of a campaign entitled "Bottle of Britain"; they said previous ads in the campaign had featured well-known Nazi symbols used humorously, such as an iron cross used in a game of noughts and crosses. They said the use of the SS insignia to replace the letters "SS" did not glorify the SS. They said their readers were sophisticated, witty and would consider that the ad was humorous rather than offensive, in the same vein as previous ads in the campaign. They said they had received one complaint about the ad.

We noted that the Oxford English Dictionary defined the SS as "a paramilitary organisation within the Nazi party that provided Hitler's bodyguard, security forces, concentration-camp guards, etc". Nevertheless, we considered that, because the ad belittled and mocked the SS insignia, the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to readers of the Evening Standard.

This particular advert went beyond the acceptable limits of the previous "'Allo Allo" style of humour. Previous adverts had not actually used such specifically Nazi symbols as the SS double sig rune.

If this advert was really so innocent, then perhaps they should run it in Germany or Austria or other European countries which suffered from SS atrocities and genocide

We investigated the ad under CAP Code clauses 5.1 (Decency) but did not find it in breach.

The ad did did not belittle or mock the SS insignia, it did cast aspersions on German lager, and it was being used to try to make money from the SS iconography, with no regard for the victims of the SS.

Such symbols of Nazi tyranny together, let it be said, with symbols of Communist tyranny like the Hammer and Sickle and the Red Star, are no more acceptable to be exploited for commercial purposes or to be used to blur the facts and images of history, than are the "Danish Mohammed Cartoons"

According to MediaWeek it seems that the entire Sheherd Neame Spitfire Advertising campaign budget of £300,000 for 2006 is to be spent with the Evening Standard, especially in the run up to the soccer World Cup Finals in Germany in May.

The German and French authorities have sued Canadian and USA based companies over the sale or promotion of Nazi regalia.

The German authorities are naturally keen to supress anything which might lead to football fan violence in the run up to the World Cup Finals in Germany.

There now exists a European Arrest Warrant procedure, which does not require any prima facie evidence to be presented before a UK court, only an accusation from a prosecutor in another European Union country.

Will Shepherd Neame and "the client's advertising agency, RPM3" and "John Ayling & Associates with Standard advertising director Alan Brydon and his sales team" be facing prosecutions for displaying banned Nazi symbols ?


Any commentary from Ken Livingstone, who has never demonstrated any sense or taste to my knowledge, towards the extremely clever Shepherd Neame advertising campaigns is as tragic and laughable as most of the other rubbish that comes out of his mouth. Spitfire is a beautiful pint, well crafted and lovingly presented for the pleasure of so many.

Anyone overly sensitive about traditional British organisations exercising their right to refer to, and indeed make jokes about, our hard won victory over the Nazi regime should grow up. And if Germans are offended by this campaign, they should have thought about the consequences of their actions before they decided to have a crack at taking over Europe for the SECOND time. We ought to be allowed to make jokes about this!

It is just this kind of anti-British, left wing crap that is ridding Britain of everything that makes it great, and replaces it with mediocrity. Leave the British to be British and do not try to clamp down on our humour, values and traditions. After all, if it wasn't for these very virtues, we'd all be speaking German.

@ A - what makes you think that this website is run by or for the benefit of Ken Livingstone ? It has been online since before the referendum on whether to even have a Mayor of London or not.

Ken Livingstone, has his own taxpayer funded propaganda department at

The objection was not to Shepherd Neame's previous and subsequent adverts, but to just this specific advert, where the alleged "creatives" crossed the line from questionable taste to outright insult and dishonour, not against Nazis, but against the victims of their genocidal atrocities and war crimes, from all nationalities including Britain.

"Spitfire Ale" is not a British "tradition" ! It has got nothing to do with World War 2, as it only came into being as a marketing campaign in 1990 i.e. 50 years after the Battle of Britain.

The product back then, was a bottle conditioned ale, but it is no longer made that way. Marketing hype has replaced quality - there are plenty of much better British or English ales on the market.

The particular advert in question was also hypocritical in slagging off German beer, given that Shepherd Neame brew and sell Holsten Export German lager under licence.

You will just have to accept that people who are at least as British and as patriotic as you are, find this advert tasteless and insulting.

It is a British tradition in the way that the brewing of Real Ale is a British tradition.

And Sheperd Neame should know about slagging off German Beer, because they brew the stuff themselves as a side income.

Not hypocritical at all, they are just speaking from personal experience!

@ Prestwick - there is no Spitfire Ale "Real Ale tradition" - it is all marketing hype. Spitfire Ale was created in 1990 to cynically cash in on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, and the original bottle conditioned ale is no more.

Their advertising creatives crossed the line of acceptability, and they have admitted as much, by promising not to run that particular advert again.

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