ASA Adjudication on Intercontinental Brands Ltd
Intercontinental Brands Ltd t/a
East Midlands Industrial Estate
21 February 2007
Number of complaints:
A TV ad and four posters for vodka.
a. The TV ad featured a number of women and two men, dressed in club-wear, who made statements directed at the viewer as they crossed the screen: "It’s not an attitude, it’s the way I am"; "Since when did girl mean girly?"; "Cool, calm and under control"; "It’s all about respect"; "What?"; "I’m not high maintenance, I just deserve better"; "Are you looking at me?"; "Why not?" (by a man, referring to the previous speaker, a woman); "Respect me. I do." The last scene of the ad showed a bottle of Vodkat, beside two shot glasses, while a female voice-over stated "Vodkats. You’ve got to be one to drink one."
b. One poster showed a young woman, standing sideways on, staring at the camera. She had her arms folded across her chest and was wearing a low-cut top and denim hotpants. Text stated "THAT'S RIGHT. LOOK UP TO ME."
c. A second poster showed another woman, who was facing the camera standing with her hands on her hips. She was wearing a low-cut top and was staring at the camera. Text stated "ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME? WHY NOT?"
d. A third poster showed a full-body shot of another young woman, dressed in a short skirt and midriff-skimming top. She had her hands on her hips and was looking at the camera with a lowered gaze. Text stated "I'M NOT ANTI-SOCIAL, I JUST DON'T LIKE YOU."
The top left hand corner of posters (b), (c) and (d) featured the Vodkats website address, VODKATS.co.uk. A bottle of Vodkat, next to two shot glasses appeared in the bottom right above the strapline "YOU'VE GOT TO BE ONE TO DRINK ONE."
e. The last poster, in the style of a photo shoot, featured the characters from posters (b), (c) and (d) who appeared in the same poses as above. They were joined by another young man and woman. All characters were staring at the camera, while striking various poses. The Vodkats website address appeared in the top left-hand corner and the bottom right featured a bottle of Vodkat and two shot glasses. Text stated "VODKAT. YOU'VE GOT TO BE ONE TO DRINK ONE."
The complainants, who believed the ads were designed to appeal to young people, challenged whether:
1. the TV ad and
2. the posters
were irresponsible because they implied it was cool to drink Vodkat and suggested that the product could contribute to popularity, attractiveness or confidence.
3. The ASA challenged whether the models in the TV ad and posters were, or looked, under 25.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
BCAP TV Code
Poulters responded to the complaints about the posters and the TV ad on behalf of Intercontinental Brands. The Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) responded to the complaints about the TV ad.
1. & 2. Poulters said they chose a cast of members of the public to star in the ads, not models or actors, and chose people who would not necessarily conform to stereotypes of popular, attractive or confident people but who demonstrated individuality. Poulters explained that the strapline in the posters and TV ad, "You've got to be one to drink one", was intended to reinforce the message that a consumer would not develop certain characteristics from drinking the product because they would already possess those personality traits. They emphasised that the cast were not under the influence of alcohol, nor were they associated with the product. Poulters added that the cast wore their own clothes to reinforce the message of individuality and set a sophisticated tone, and also to show mature taste without enhancing attractiveness. Poulters said they included statements about respect and control to counter any suggestion of irresponsibility; they said they had been mindful of the requirements of the CAP Code and the CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code when developing the ads.
The BACC said they had worked closely with Poulters over a ten-week period during which time they made significant changes to ensure the TV ad was acceptable for broadcast. They said the characters in the ad were portrayed as mature, confident and sassy individuals, representative of people in their late twenties. The BACC believed that, because the cast were made up of ordinary people rather than celebrities, and because the music was not a well known piece, the ad was unlikely to appeal to under 18-year-olds. They pointed out that, although the script of the TV ad mentioned being "cool", it centred on adult attitudes and sentiments such as "calm", "under control" and "respect".
3. Poulters said the ad was designed to contrast the current climate of youth culture and binge drinking with notions of respect and control. They told us the cast was recruited via a national PR campaign that directed people to the Vodkats website to register their details. Poulters said a disclaimer on the website emphasised that applicants had to be aged 25 years or over. They added that each cast member was required to show proof of their age at the casting session.
The BACC said they had insisted that all the models in the TV ad should be and look over 25 and Poulters had agreed to comply with this requirement. When the BACC watched the finished piece, prior to clearance, they had been satisfied that all the models looked old enough.
The ASA noted Poulters' and the BACC's comments. We considered that most viewers were likely to see the characters in the TV ad as trendy, attractive and assertive people and that notion was reinforced by phrases such as "Its not an attitude, its the way I am", "Im not high maintenance, I just deserve better" and "Are you looking at me? ... Why not?".
We considered that the characters featured in the ad would be highly appealing to young people, especially young women, as well as to adults in the 18 - 30 age group. We were therefore concerned that the message of the ad, created by the characters' attitude and style coupled with the strapline "Youve got to be one to drink one", could give the impression that the "Vodkats" were a group of attractive, confident and popular people and drinking Vodkat would make you 'cool' like them.
Although we noted Poulters argument that a consumer already had to possess "Vodkat" qualities in order to drink Vodkat, we considered that young viewers were likely to regard the implied qualities of the characters in the ad as something to aspire to, and that both young viewers and adults in the target audience were likely to infer from the ad that drinking Vodkat was a way of being seen to possess those qualities. We concluded that the ad implied drinking Vodkat could contribute to popularity, confidence and attractiveness and also that the ad was likely to appeal strongly to people under 18 years of age by reflecting the cool, sassy elements of the culture.
On this point, the TV ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 11.8.1(a)(1), 11.8.1(c) and 11.8.2(a)(1) (Alcoholic drinks) but did not breach 11.8.1(a)(2), 11.8.2(a)(3) or 11.8.2(e) (Alcoholic drinks).
The ASA acknowledged that Poulters had consulted the CAP Copy Advice team to try to ensure compliance with the CAP Code.
We nevertheless considered that the overriding message of the posters was that consumers who chose to drink Vodkat would be joining a group of people whose members were cool, attractive and uncompromising. We were concerned that the presentation of characters typifying those qualities, making statements like "Thats right. Look up to me", in poster (b), and "Im not anti-social. I just dont like you", in poster (d) could appeal to people seeking to be credited by their peer group with having the same qualities. We were also concerned that the images and tone used in all the posters could be seen to imply drinking Vodkat could enhance confidence or attractiveness. We considered that the "cool club" message was consolidated by the strapline "You've got to be one to drink one" that featured in each poster. We concluded that, because the overall message of each poster seemed to be that Vodkat was a "cool" drink and drinking it could enhance confidence, popularity or attractiveness, the posters could be seen to be irresponsible.
On this point, posters (b), (c), (d) and (e) breached CAP Code clauses 2.2 (Responsibility), 56.5, 56.8, 56.9 and 56.12 (Alcohol) but did not breach 56.4 or 56.7 (Alcohol).
3. Not upheld
We acknowledged that Poulters had been careful in their selection of candidates for the ads. Although we considered that the TV ad was likely to appeal strongly to people under 18, we were satisfied that the people featured in the ads were, and looked, over 25 years of age.
On this point, we investigated the TV ad under CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rule 11.8.2(a)(2) (Alcoholic drinks) but did not find it in breach.
On this point, we investigated the posters under CAP Code clause 56.6 (Alcohol) but did not find them in breach.
The TV ad should not be shown again in its current form.
The posters should not be shown again in their current form.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Broadcast)
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)