Whisky ad banned by the ASA

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Last week a Macallan Whisky ad was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for promoting risky behaviour, highlighting once again how careful brands need to be when it comes to alcohol marketing.

The ad, which was shown on TV, on-demand video and Instagram, featured a man jumping off a cliff and sprouting wings as he nosedives towards the ground with on-screen text stating “Would you risk falling…for the chance to fly”. He then reappears fully winged and flying upwards with the final frame text “The Macallan. Make the call”. The six complaints that the ASA received challenged whether the ads were irresponsible and linked alcohol with being tough, daring and irresponsible.

Edrington Distilleries, the company behind the Macallan brand, asserted that the ads were mythical and not based in reality, nor did they show anyone consuming alcohol. The ‘fantastical winged man’ was simply a metaphor about making a big decision – “making the call”. Clearcast, ITV and Instagram also responded to the investigation and none had found that the adverts violated their policies and were deemed acceptable to broadcast.

Despite these claims, the ASA upheld the complaints and issued a Ruling noting that the ad resembled the extreme base-jumping sport and that the fantastical elements were overshadowed by the risky “Would you risk falling…” tagline. They stated; “Although the character was not seen consuming alcohol at any point, we considered the ads made a clear association between an alcoholic product and potentially very dangerous, daring behaviour and concluded that they were irresponsible”. The ads were banned and Edrington were ordered to ensure future ads did not link alcohol with daring, toughness or irresponsible behaviour.

The ruling comes only a few weeks after the Portman Group, the alcohol industry’s trade body, released new rules to ensure marketing of alcoholic products does not cause offence. Never before have brands had to be so responsible with their marketing. So how can you make sure your next alcohol campaign stays out of trouble? Here are a few of our top tips:

  • Be responsible – never show excessive drinking or relate drinking with the success of an event. This includes price promotions that encourage drinking more than necessary
  • Children – never target under 18’s or use imagery that will appeal to children. People featured in alcohol advertising must look at least 25 years old.
  • Special properties – never claim that alcohol can help overcome problems, cure illness, loneliness or boredom

For more advice on marketing alcohol, a ‘sense-check’ review of your campaign or help with your next promotion contact PromoVeritas on info@promoveritas.com.

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