An unofficial statement from the company re-posted on The Blaze indicated that the team behind the ad made a subjective judgment not to include the phrase due to a guideline in The Beer Institute’s Advertising and Marketing Code. That guideline says not to use religion or religious themes in commercials. But as BI Vice President of Communications, Chris Thorne, writes in a response to our questions, brewers should also “use the perspective of the reasonable adult consumer of legal drinking age in advertising and marketing their products.”
Had The Boston Beer Company kept the phrase in there as it is written in the Declaration of Independence, anyone who felt that the brewery inappropriately used religion to promote alcohol could have issued a formal complaint with the brewery and possibly even to the Code Compliance Review Board.
But would anyone have blinked at such usage?
In any case, Thorne lays out below how The Beer Institute handles oversight of brewers’ advertising and marketing campaigns.
The Beer Institute doesn’t review ads prior to airing nor are we in a position of granting or denying “permission” to air ads.
Brewers are committed to a policy and practice of responsible advertising and marketing, and the Beer Institute’s Advertising and Marketing Code is a model of responsible industry self-regulation. While our guidelines for brewers and beer importers have evolved over time to meet the country’s evolving social, commercial and technological norms, the premise of these guidelines has remained unchanged – to ensure that brewers and beer importers market and advertise their products responsibly and to adults of legal drinking age.
The Beer Institute’s Advertising and Marketing Code does say that beer advertising and marketing materials should not employ religion or religious themes. It also says that brewers should use the perspective of the reasonable adult consumer of legal drinking age in advertising and marketing their products. Ultimately, what determines adherence to the Advertising and Marketing Code is whether someone is using religion or religious themes to promote their beer in a way that would offend a reasonable adult consumer of legal drinking age.
If a member of the public believes that an ad is inconsistent with a provision of the Code and is unsatisfied with the response of the brewer to their complaint about the ad, the Ad and Marketing Code allows for review of the complaint by a third-party panel, the Code Compliance Review Board. This independent panel is empowered to render judgments on whether particular ads are in violation of the Ad and Marketing Code.
More information can be found on the Beer Institute’s website.