Air Up Advertisement Gets Held Up For Anti-Social Behaviour

A paid-for YouTube ad for Air Up, a water bottle company, has been taken down by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media, for containing imagery that encouraged anti-social behaviour.

Published in February and March 2024, the YouTube ad showed a man, from behind, urinating into a lake in the park while a woman walked past carrying a child and a man.

A voice-over stated, “Air up takes your water intake to new levels, by flavouring water through scent. We solved daily hydration for this guy, the side effects, less sugary drinks, a healthier lifestyle, and well, this, we couldn’t solve this, but he’ll take care of that […] You’ll be drinking a whole lot more water.”

The complainants challenged whether the contents of the ad were irresponsible and condoned anti-social and potentially unlawful behaviour.

Air Up responded that it merely represented a human biological function in a humorous and non-offensive way. They said the ad presented a fictional scenario in a humorous way and that audiences would be able to distinguish fiction from reality.

The ad attempted to convey that hydration was important, even if that resulted in sometimes needing to empty one’s bladder when it was not the right time and place. The scenario presented was not intended to shock the audience; it was merely portraying a situation that most people would be familiar with.

Additionally, they believed the other characters featured in the ad demonstrated that they found the behaviour unacceptable.

Air Up had not received any direct complaints about the ad and expressed caution about taking the impressions or feelings of a small group of complainants as being representative of the whole population.

The ASA acknowledged Air Up’s comments that the ad was intended to highlight the consequences of drinking more water in a humourous and fictional way.

However, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code requires that marketing communications must contain nothing that is likely to condone or encourage anti-social behaviour and to ensure advertising is prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.

As the scenario took place in a real-world setting and depicted a male prominently and publicly urinating in a park, it would not only be viewed as anti-social behaviour, but also potentially unlawful in the UK.

Furthermore, although not explicitly depicted in the ad, it was implied that his genitalia would have been exposed and potentially visible to others in the park. Although the other characters shown in the ad seemed displeased at the sight of the man urinating, he appeared comfortable with his actions and made no attempt to hide what he was doing or find a more discrete location.

The ad also focused on the man’s urine stream, which was explicitly visible and shown from different angles. The ASA therefore considered that by trivialising the act of public urination, the ad condoned anti-social behaviour.

Air Up has confirmed that the ad is no longer being broadcast, and the company has been informed to prepare future ads responsibly.

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