Brewery's 'Willy Wonka' Contest Costs CEO Big-Time

James Watt made three ill-advised tweets
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 10, 2023 1:23 PM CST
Updated Jan 15, 2023 7:00 AM CST
Brewery CEO's 'Willy Wonka' Contest Goes South
   (Getty Images / BalkansCat)

A Scottish brewery dreamed up a Willy Wonka-style competition in late 2020, and it ended up costing it big-time, or so wrote CEO James Watt on LinkedIn over the weekend. He explained that Brewdog turned to a goldsmith to craft 50 cans made from 24-carat gold, which were to be hidden in cases of beer. Customers who found one would get the can (which were worth about $350 each) and get shares in the company (Insider reports it was advertised as £10,000 worth of shares, though Watt's post says £15,000). The trouble came when Watt promoted the contest on Twitter, where he wrote of the potential to win a "solid gold" can.

"In my enthusiasm, I had misunderstood the process of how they were made," writes Watt. The cans weren't solid gold, but rather gold-plated brass. "It was a silly mistake and it only appeared in around 3 of a total of 50 posts about the promotion but as it turns out, those 3 tweets were enough to do a lot of damage." Indeed: At least half the winners filed complaints with the Advertising Standards Agency. Watt now explains what came next. Calling it his mistake alone, he says he decided the only way to make things right was to do "something pretty radical."

"I got in touch with all 50 winners and let them know that if they were unhappy with their prize I would personally offer them the full cash amount as an alternative"—cash that would come from his pocket so that the brewery wouldn't take a hit. "All in all, it ended up costing me around £470,000 [about $570,000]—well over 2 and a half years ‘salary. ... It was a damaging episode for us and I am now the proud owner of 40 gold cans. Not quite sure what I should do with them. All Ideas welcome!" (More false advertising stories.)

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