A pub in County Durham, England, has been rapped by the UK Advertising Standards Agency after three complaints about its "German Night" advert were upheld.
According to the ASA ruling, the Buck Inn in Sadberge near Darlington made a Facebook post on September 8 last year, promoting its German Night special menu. It featured in its text the famous line from the sixth episode of the BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers, "Don't Mention Ze War!". It also included "Graham Ze Chef", an image in which a cartoon of the chef's face had been photoshopped onto the body of a Nazi soldier, complete with its right arm raised in salute and a swastika armband. The advert's colours and style were also said to resemble Nazi imagery.
Four days later, the Buck Inn's page was updated to make a newspaper cutting about criticism of the original post its profile picture. Several comments were made on the post displaying the update by other users, which the Buck Inn then liked. Some of these comments "contained distasteful jokes and puns in reference to the Holocaust", according to the ASA.
The pub's response was that the post was meant to be humorous, and that it had used the Fawlty Towers episode as inspiration for its ad. It stated that it was not promoting the Nazi party and did not intend to make light of the Second World War. It also said that it had liked every comment made by users on their page, in order to promote the brand and improve customer relations.
The ASA sided with the complainants, judging that although "don't mention the war" is a well-known quote, the Nazi image was inappropriate, both for trivialising the actions of the Nazis and the Second World War, and for appearing to link German culture intrinsically with Nazi Germany and the conflict.
The second post was equally judged to be inappropriate, as it was seen as making light of people's concerns, and would also have likely caused offence by liking the inappropriate comments.
The Buck Inn was ordered to not show the adverts again (the pub has deleted the posts from its profile, but the original poster can be seen on the BBC's site) and to not cause offence by using Nazi references or trivialising WWII in future. The pub was also ordered to not "like" comments on its Facebook page that could cause "serious or widespread offence".
Landlord Craig Harker had a run-in with the ASA in May 2017, when another of his establishments, The George Pub and Grill, made a Facebook ad asking: "Would you punch your ex in the face for a parmo*?" The ASA judged this advert was likely to be offensive for trivialising domestic violence. The George made no response during the investigation.
Speaking to the BBC, Harker said: "The world's gone absolutely bonkers if this is deemed offensive. As long as business is good I'll continue to market my businesses however I see fit and let the PC brigade continue to do their jobs." ®
*For the benefit of our non-Northeastern readers, a "parmo" is a breadcrumbed pork cutlet, served with a béchemel-style sauce containing parmesan or other cheese, which gives the delicacy its name.