Craig Harker, owner of The George Pub and Grill, Stockton-on-Tees, and the Buck Inn, Sadberge, both in County Durham, has hit national headlines for the second time in as many months for the controversial posters he puts on his business's Facebook pages.
The latest poster refers to 'Graham ze chef' doing a Nazi salute, along with the tagline 'Don't mention ze war!'.
The chef, is in fact, Harker’s father Graham.
The “light-hearted” poster follows swiftly on from Harker’s previous advert from his pub the George and Grill, which said: “Would you punch your ex in the face for a parmo?”.
The advert was taken so seriously that the pub was told to take it down by the ASA.
Of the most recent advert, Harker said: “It's all tongue and cheek. Growing up I watched 'Allo 'Allo!, Fawlty Towers, Only Fools and Horses, and all these episodes mention the war, mention Nazis, and years ago people used to laugh at the fact, they had a joke about things.
“It's a serious piece of history but you need to be able to have a laugh.
“The fact that we used a picture of Hitler with the chef, my Dad's, head on there basically was to have a laugh.”
The night will be all about German cuisine, where the pub will serve steins and a three-course German meal, including curry bratwurst for the main, with tickets nearly all sold out.
No complaints from the locals
Harker said that although the reaction from the articles and from councillors was negative, the reaction from the pubic had been positive.
“Don't mention ze war, that's from Fawlty Towers in one of the episodes," he said.
“The pub is in a little village in Darlington, and everyone of the locals loves it. We've not had one complaint from the locals there, which is who we mainly focus on.”
Harker said the national attention he has received has “not bothered him in the slightest”.
“We have had warnings from the ASA previously, and I do consider each poster before I publish it, whether it is online, or in the pub. But, I run all the marketing myself, and it's working for us so far, so I will continue doing what we are doing.”
The advert from the George Pub and Grill was seen by around 5m people on its Facebook page.
“I was getting phone calls from people saying I was promoting domestic violence – which I was not.
“I even had a meeting with the Police over that
“But, moving forward, our promotions and marketing won't change. I will take into consideration people's feelings, but, I will do what I think is going to get people into the place.”
Harker admitted that “there is probably a line”, and that he has “probably crossed it a few times”.
Method to the madness
The publican said a lot of time and effort goes into the posters, and he recruits a designer to help him create them.
“Everyone does their own marketing, but social media is a massive marketing avenue for us,” he continued.
“I can see the stats, which I can sit and study, and find out what will be relevant for our customers.
“The posters will keep going, if the customers are going to keep coming in.
“Hopefully we are not offending anyone, or not too many people. At the minute it's all positive from the locals, I'm sure they will tell me if they think I overstep the mark."
Asked if he would stop if they did tell him he was going too far, he responded: "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it".
Advice from the ASA
Although the ASA does not have any rules for pubs specifically, it said it expects all advertisers to prepare their ads with a sense of “responsibility to consumers and society”.
When making a decision on whether an advert is likely to cause widespread offence, ASA takes into account: the audience that is likely to see it; the context in which it appears; the product it is promoting; and prevailing standards in society.
“Ads must not cause serious or widespread harm or use approaches that are likely to encourage socially irresponsible behaviour,” advised a spokesman for ASA.
“Upheld decisions can result in widespread adverse publicity for the company concerned, and marketers can be required to have posters pre-vetted by CAP’s Copy Advice team for two years if they publish an offensive poster.”