The Carlsberg Beer Pump on Brick Lane must be seen as a viral marketing success. But there is something which has played on my mind: how is it legal for a company to give out free beer to passersby? How do they stop violent scenes occuring and how do they stop children drinking it – if they even need to.

You must have seen the images by now of people queuing up to receive free beer from a street-side Carlsberg tap on Brick Lane in Shoreditch. Brick Lane is a trendy place; it’s one of the hipster capitals of the UK and full of social-media savvy millenials who can be used to promote this gimmick (and with it, the brand) to all of their Instagram and Twitter followers (although I’m sure that this kind of commercialisation will eventually force the hipsters to migrate to a newer, cooler part of the capital.) As The Independant wrote this week, this is just another in a new trend of gimmicky food and drink designed to be shared socially and garner tremendous social media buzz. And by writing about it, I’m only helping them. I’m nothing if not a shill.

Also like the ad, it fits the brand, it’s a clever idea and maximising your budget by having other people do your distribution for you is ingenious – especially when you’re so limited in your advertising methods. Local newspapers over 100 miles away were reporting on this advert and that’s a testament to the execution. So well done to Fold7, it’s very creative, it’s been at the top of /r/adporn for days.

Now, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the easiest way to get people to care about and drink your beer is to give it away for free. However, when it comes to the distribution en masse of any product which is A: age-restricted and B: has a tendency to make people a bit overfriendly/violent/sick (see 10-cent beer night for another example) then surely you are left with a lot of quandaries with your planning. Here is how Carling probably got around them.

Stopping Under-18s from Drinking the free Beer

There’s often some confusion on minors drinking alcohol, so here is some clarification straight from the DrinkAware’s mouth (or website):

It’s the third bullet point there which is the kicker, Carlsberg has erected this tap in the middle of a public street, meaning that no under 18s can drink from it with or without their parents.  Carlsberg’s methods of stopping the drinking were standard. Although it was omitted from all of the publicity and newspaper shots, they had security guarding the tap (see below), which probably also limited people to one pint per ‘customer’ and reduced the chances of violence, which are a couple of other big issues.

This Picture was taken by @BWaite in Twitter, WordPress isn't embedding tweets correctly at the moment.
This Picture was taken by @BWaite in Twitter, WordPress isn’t embedding tweets correctly at the moment.

Getting Around the Law Stopping People from Drinking in Public

Despite the fact that Carlsberg have paid bouncers to stop children from drinking from the tap, it still leaves the question of how it was allowed to be erected in a public place in the first place. In the UK, local councils have the ability to declare locations to have a Designated Public Place Order, which essentially stops people from drinking within them. I knew when I saw the advert that Shoreditch was one of these places, it’s why I always avoid going there (the pubs are always full).  So I was perplexed: how did Carlsberg manage to convince Hackney Council to construct the public beer tap?

As it happens, there is already a system in place to allow DPPOs to be suspended temporarily, providing that it’s short-term and that you can justify that Hackney will not further descend towards becoming a den of inequity. It’s laid out here in Hackney Council’s rules on DPPOs and licensing. It seems that when there is publicity to be had for one of your most famous, tourism-friendly streets, things can be relaxed slightly.

Credit must be paid to the ironic achievements of the advert. The Advertising Standards Authority have set pretty much a blanket ban of alcohol adverts showing drinking in the street (it comes under the broad banner of “anti-social” behavior) and yet Carlsberg have managed to produce an advert which not only bypasses these regulations but also bypasses the costs of actually producing and distributing the adverts, by having bored local and national newspapers distribute the story for them. As Carlsberg have stated that this is just the first in a number of gimmicky try-to-go-viral campaigns over the next year, I hope that the rest are as ironically ingenious as this one is.

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