The Can Song has bean canned!

24 Nov 2016


The ASA received just 9 complaints regarding a TV Ad for HJ Heinz Foods UK Ltd (Heinz) which includes children and teenagers playing a tune on tins of beans with viewers urged to "Learn the #CanSong”.

The complaints challenged whether the Ad encouraged unsafe practice and whether the ad featured behaviour that could be dangerous for children to copy in breach of rules 4.4 (Harm and offence) and 5.2 (Children) of the BCAP Code.

The ASA upheld the complaints and has banned the TV Ad in its current form.  This has come as quite a surprise to Heinz and people who have played the Can Song and had fun in doing so without hurting or cutting themselves (or considering this a possibility).  Does the Ad really condone and encourage behaviour that prejudices health and safety or has the ASA been over zealous in its decision?


ASA’s Position

The Can Song is played by the can being tapped on its bottom, top and sides.  The Actors in the Ad accomplished this by flipping and twirling the can round.  The ASA did not consider the average viewer of the Ad to be as proficient as the actors and that it was entirely plausible that a hand or finger could be inserted into an empty can and that this could result in cuts and/or injury.

Cans used in the Ad had were taped around the inside of the open end, in accordance with safety advice provided on social media by Heinz.  Whilst the ASA took on board Heinz’s point that on-screen text in the Ad referred consumers to social media sites which contained instructions on preparing a can to replicate the song safely,  it did not consider the on-screen text in the Ad to be sufficient.

The ASA noted the ad featured actors of varying ages, including both adults and children, who played the Can Song and who actively encouraged viewers to recreate the Can Song.  The ASA  considered it was likely to have appeal to a wide age range; including children. 

The ASA concluded that the Ad condoned and encouraged behaviour that prejudiced health or safety and breaching BCAP Code rule 4.4 (Harm and offence) and on the basis the Ad did not adequately convey how to make the cans safe prior to recreating the Can Song, the actions in the Ad  could be dangerous for children to copy and breached BCAP Code rule 5.2 (Children).


Heinz’s Position

The Ad centres around the use of a can of Heinz Baked Beans tapped only on its sealed top, its bottom or sides. These surfaces are of course safe to tap and the Ad did not show anyone placing a hand or finger inside an empty can. Consumers’ versions of the Can Song  have been uploaded onto social media sites which Heinz maintains is evidence that copying the Ad was not prejudicial to consumers’ health or safety.

Children shown tapping cans in the ad were always shown in the presence of an adult. Heinz did not consider the ad to be solely directed at, or particularly appealing to, children because they featured either an adult only or a family setting. The Ad included scenes specifically aimed at adults.  


Clearcast’s Position

The actions were not dangerous or harmful and it did not consider the way the can was handled to be dangerous or reckless; at no stage during the Ad was anyone playing with the rim of the cans and all children who participated in the Can Song were supervised by an adult.


Our view

Sarah Cook, litigator in the firm’s TMT Dispute Resolution Group comments:

Whilst the decision may seem a little harsh for those that have played the Can Song safely, most people would assess playing with open tin cans as a potential health and safety risk – especially for children who are unlikely to appreciate that the cans should be made safe prior to playing the Can Song safely and who may simply pick up an empty can and start tapping.   The Ad alone did not go far enough to highlight how to play the Can Song safely which will inevitably appeal to children even if the Ad was not specifically targeted at them.” 


Advertisers must always act responsibly and there is wealth of guidance and regulation to comply with.  If you require any assistance with reviewing and assessing your proposed advertising campaigns please contact:

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