Watchdog bans Coca-Cola's "Cactus Kid" TV ads

LONDON (Reuters) - Two commercials for Coca-Cola’s Oasis fruit drink have been banned because they appear to condone underage sex and teenage pregnancy, the advertising watchdog said on Wednesday.

The Advertising Standards Authority upheld 32 complaints about the television ads, which feature young lovers called Cactus Kid and Cactus Girl who elope after she falls pregnant.

Based around the slogan “For People Who Don’t Like Water,” the ads’ hero is a muscular man with green skin and spines covering his body like a cactus.

He runs away with his newly pregnant girlfriend, leaving behind her angry mother at home in Kansas. In one advert, the girlfriend says in a voiceover: “I reckon now she knows how I ended up getting sunburn on the bottom of my feet.”

The watchdog said the reference to her pregnancy was unacceptable as Cactus Girl appears to be in her early teens.

“Because the ad could be interpreted to condone underage sex and teenage pregnancy, the innuendo was inappropriate and likely to cause serious or widespread offence,” it said.

Although the adverts were intended to be funny, their emphasis on having a sugary drink instead of plain water was irresponsible, it added. One ad said: “Cactus Kid would no sooner try and milk a she-wolf than touch him a glass of water.”

The watchdog said it broke advertising rules because it could discourage children from having a healthy diet. The commercials must not be shown again in their current form.

Coca-Cola said it did not mean to cause offence. The ads were aimed at people in their 20s who would like their “edgy humour.”

The character of Cactus Girl is 20 and was played by an actress aged 22. The bizarre theme distanced the adverts from reality, it added. The adverts were not meant to encourage people to replace water with Oasis in their diet.

Reporting by Peter Griffiths; editing by Steve Addison