Bulmers left with hangover after advertising mishap

  • 7 November 2013
The Bulmers advert, featuring Hugh Price Hughes instead of C. H. Bulmer

A drinks firm has apologised after using a picture of a teetotal clergyman in a cider advert. Celebrating heritage is good, but there can be pitfalls, writes Graham Fraser.

Bulmers hoped to highlight its continued production in Hereford with a picture of Rev CH Bulmer, who provided his sons Percy and Fred with a loan to support the family business over 120 years ago. "We hope he'd be proud," the advert says. He won't be. The picture of the Victorian gent is not Mr Bulmer. It is Hugh Price Hughes, a prominent Methodist, born in Carmarthen in 1847, who spent his life helping alcoholics.

Rev Val Reid is the minister at the Hinde Street Methodist Church, home to the West London Mission. The mission was founded by Hughes to help tackle Victorian social problems. "One of the things Hugh Price Hughes was interested in when he founded the West London Mission was his work with some of the poorest people," Reid says. "The abuse of alcohol was a huge problem then. It caused untold misery, additional poverty, and a strain on families. We were very concerned that his image was being used to promote cider."

Reid found out about the mistake when one of the members of her congregation spotted it while flicking through last month's GQ magazine. The minister called Heineken, which owns Bulmers, but could not get past the receptionist. She made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Heineken then got in touch.

"They have been extraordinarily gracious in dealing with it," Reid says. "They have pulled all the ads straight away." Heineken said it "fully appreciated the distress caused" by using the wrong image. The error happened after the company's advertising agency could not find a picture of CH Bulmer and used one of the teetotal minister instead. Heineken has said it will visit the church and make a donation. The firm's penitence might have been appreciated by Hugh Price Hughes.

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