ASA Adjudication on Cell Drinks
3 August 2011
Internet (social networking)
Number of complaints:
Three video ads on YouTube, seen 29 June 2011, promoted an alcoholic drink, Cell Drink. The videos had been uploaded by the advertisers and also appeared on the Youtube section of their Facebook page.
a. One ad opened with on-screen text which stated “The story so far ... Cell Drinks challenged champion free-runner Tim Shieff to test out Cell Drink’s zero spillage claims. Is Cell really ‘made for the Dancefloor’? Let’s find out”. The video featured Tim Shieff free-running and jumping around and over buildings, performing back flips and break-dancing and incorporating the product into his moves and tricks without spilling it.
b. A second ad opened with on-screen text which stated “The SPILLAGE TEST. TEST:1 SUBJECT: ROCKER”. A voiceover stated “Take one rocker. Give him a drink, watch him dance, measure the spillage”. In a science lab, a man dressed as a rocker was given a full pint glass by a man dressed in a lab coat. Rock music was played and the rocker did some head-banging, spilling most of the drink as his head-banging increased. The test was deemed to show “97% spillage”. The voiceover stated “Cell drink, the unspillable drink, made for dancefloors”. On-screen text at the end featured the product and stated “MADE FOR DANCEFLOORS. ZERO SPILLAGE”.
c. A third ad opened with onscreen text which stated “The SPILLAGE TEST. TEST:2 SUBJECT: THE RAVER”. A voiceover stated “Take one raver. Give her a drink, watch her dance, measure the spillage. In the lab, a woman dressed in fluorescent clothes was given a drink in a glass and techno music was played, while she did some raving and dancing, spilling most of the drink as she raved more frantically. The test was deemed to show “99% spillage”. The voice-over stated “Cell drink, the unspillable drink, made for dancefloors”. On-screen text at the end featured the product and stated “MADE FOR DANCEFLOORS. ZERO SPILLAGE”.
Three complainants challenged:
whether ad a):
1. breached the Code because it featured free-runner Tim Shieff, aged 23 years old;
2. was irresponsible because it associated alcohol with bravado and dangerous behaviour; and
3. implied the product could enhance physical capabilities;
4. whether ad c) breached the Code because the woman featured appeared to be under 25.
5. whether ad a) and
6. ad b) had particular appeal to under 18s; and
7. the ASA challenged whether ad c) had particular appeal to under 18s.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Cell Drinks said they had launched the drinks range in March 2011, after two and a half years of researching the market. They said the products were designed to be ‘spike proof’ and were the first drinks to have been endorsed by the Roofie foundation, a charity campaigning on the issues of date rape and drinks spiking. They said the products were flexibly packaged, which could help avoid violent incidents inside and outside nightclub venues, which were often associated with glass or bottled products. They said they had worked closely with Leicester police in relation to that issue. They said the drinks were ‘spill proof’, which reduced spillage and drink wastage, and therefore also reduced venues’ cleaning bills. They stated that one pack was equal to one unit of alcohol and they had labelled the packs accordingly, to allow consumers to keep track of unit consumption, and therefore felt their drinks made drinking safer and more responsible. They said they had worked closely with the Portman group and had a DrinksAware licence. They felt the campaign clearly focused on the point that the drinks did not spill and avoided any reference to the taste/flavour of the product, or how it might make a consumer ‘feel’. They said the active promotion of the ads was via Facebook and YouTube, which informed its users they should be of legal drinking age to view the ads.
They acknowledged that Tim Shieff was 23, but stated there was no indication during the video that he had ever or was intending to drink a Cell Drink. They pointed out that, according to Portman Group guidelines, it was acceptable to show someone over 18 but under 25 in a promotional context provided that the image did not show them in a context which associated them with drinking, i.e. there was no suggestion that they had just consumed, were consuming, or were about to consume alcohol. They said Tim was shown outdoors, freerunning, not in licensed premises or congregating with friends in a social setting, or in an environment where there was any suggestion alcohol was being consumed.
2. They reiterated their view that there was no indication that Tim had or was about to, or was intending to drink the product. They stated that Tim neither removed the top of the product nor showed any movement that would suggest he was about to consume the product. They said they had selected Tim, a top Freerunner, because ‘freerunning’ offered an extreme test of the Cell Drinks ‘non spillability’ claims and that aspect was not related to consuming the contents of the pack, but merely what happened to the liquid inside the pack when a freerunning expert ran with it.
3. They said Tim was not presenting an open pack and did not feel that it looked like he was about to consume the product. They therefore felt there was no reason to suppose anyone watching the ads would assume that Cell Drinks Ltd was suggesting that drinking the product would enhance physical capabilities. They added that the commentary stated that the aim of the video was to test the ‘non spill’ claims.
4. They stated that the filming had taken place in December 2010 and the actress was 24 at that time. They said they had not correctly calculated her age from her date of birth and had previously understood that she was 25 at the time the ad was filmed. They said that, during casting they had felt she looked older and also pointed out that she did not consume any alcohol during the video but was demonstrating the ‘non’ spillage aspect of the product. They added that her dress attire was based on a ‘late 80’s/ early 90’s classic ‘raver’-look, which was aimed at an older audience who would relate to that period in time.
5., 6. & 7.
They stated that entry to the Cell Facebook page was via an age-gate system and access was therefore controlled by the date of birth that users entered when signing up. They stated that the age restriction was set to the legal drinking age in the relevant country; UK users would need to have registered a date of birth showing they were at least 18 to gain access to Cell Drinks Facebook page. They stated that promotion of the videos was through the Facebook page and the vast majority of users accessed their You Tube channel via the Cell Drinks Facebook page. They added that the YouTube Cell page stated that users had to be of legal drinking age to view the Cell Drinks channel and that each individual video also carried a similar warning as that video played. They understood that those were the maximum possible age restrictions that could be applied to Facebook and You Tube. They provided a breakdown of the ages of visitors to the Cell YouTube page, which showed that 13.55% of browsers were 13-17, 27.19% were 18-25 and 24.06% were 35-44.
They said that appeal to people under 18 was a subjective issue. They said that the ads did not show licensed premises and did not show groups of people ‘partying’ or holding drinks in open bottles/cans. They said there was no reference in the ads to the way Cell drinks might make consumers feel or social situations consumers might be able to enjoy should they drink Cell drinks. They said there was no direct indication that the actors/performers in the ads were consuming/or intending to consume their products. They stated that the brief of the ad had been to appeal to 18-25 year olds and they felt that targeting anything for that age range was likely to have some appeal to people under 18s. They stated that ad a) was influenced by TV programs such as ‘Balls of Steel’ which was broadcast after the 9pm watershed and they believed was aimed at over 18s. They stressed that ads b) and c) had not intended to target under 18s and stated that rockers and ravers had been around for some time; they state that rockers were likely to be older and said the raver girl was based on late eighties or early nineties ravers, so would be aimed at people in their twenties.
We understood that Tim Shieff was 23. Although we acknowledged that he was not featured drinking, we noted that he was the only person featured in the ad and that the ad highlighted his freerunning abilities. We considered that he and his athletic skill would be heavily associated with the product and its promotion.
Because Tim Shieff played a significant role in the ad and was under 25, we considered that the ad was in breach of the Code.
On that point, ad a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising), 18.14 and 18.16 (Alcohol).
We noted that the ad featured Tim Shieff performing a number of freerunning moves, such as jumping from one building to another and over large gaps, sliding down a roof and performing a one-handed handstand. Although we understood that he was a trained and experienced freerunner, and acknowledged that he was not pictured consuming Cell Drinks in the ad, we nonetheless considered that the ad made a clear association between an alcoholic product and potentially dangerous, extreme moves, which required a degree of courage to perform. Because of that clear association between alcohol and daring feats, we considered that the ad was irresponsible.
On that point, ad a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising), 18.4 and 18.14 (Alcohol).
3. Not upheld
We considered viewers would understand from the presentation of the ad that Tim Shieff was a well-known and experienced freerunner, and that he had developed his athletic abilities over some time. We noted that he did not consume the product in the ad, and although we considered that the ad made a clear association between an alcoholic product and Tim Shieff’s freerunning abilities, we did not consider that viewers would understand that he was able to perform the freerunning and gymnastic moves because he had consumed Cell Drink. We therefore considered that, in spite of that association, viewers would not infer that Cell Drink could enhance their own physical capabilities and did not consider the ad was in breach on that point.
On that point, we investigated ad a) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 18.7 (Alcohol), but did not find it in breach.
We understood that the woman featured in the ad was 24 when the ad was filmed. Although we understood that the ad was designed to show that dancing with a drink in a glass would cause it to spill and that she was therefore not featured in the process of drinking, we considered that viewers would understand that the context was very similar to a circumstance which would usually involve drinking alcohol whilst dancing. Because the ad featured a person who was under 25, in a significant role whose actions were heavily associated with drinking alcohol, we considered that the ad was in breach of the Code.
On that point, ad c) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising), 18.14 and 18.16 (Alcohol).
We noted that the ad featured extensive scenes of freerunning, break-dancing and athletic moves such as back flips and one handed handstands, performed by a well-known, young freerunner. We also noted that the soundtrack was a hip hop track and that the concept of the ad was to test whether the product was “made for the dance floor”. Although we understood that some restrictions were in place to limit people who were not of a legal drinking age from viewing the ads, we understood that under 18s might still be able to access them and considered that the scenes in the ad would appeal particularly to young people, including those who were under 18, and concluded that the ad was in breach of the Code.
On that point, ad a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 18.14 (Alcohol).
We noted that the ad featured a man dressed as a stereotypical ‘rocker’ headbanging and spilling a drink, and a man dressed as a stereotypical ‘geeky’ scientist in a lab coat and protective glasses, and was designed to be surreal and comical in tone. We considered the humour played on stereotypes and relied on a tongue-in-cheek approach which was likely to appeal particularly to young people. We also considered that scenes showing headbanging and rock music would also be likely to appeal particularly to young people.
Although we understood that some restrictions were in place to limit people who were not of a legal drinking age from viewing the ads, because we considered the comical, mischievous tone of the ad and the music and headbanging featured would appeal particularly to young people, including those who were under 18, we concluded that the ad was in breach of the Code.
On that point, ad b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising) and 18.14 (Alcohol).
We noted that the ad featured a young woman dressed as a stereotypical ‘raver’ in neon clothes, and a man dressed as a stereotypical scientist, and was designed to be surreal and comical in tone. We considered that the humorous and tongue-in-cheek approach was likely to appeal particularly to young people. We also considered that scenes showing raving and techno music would be likely to appeal particularly to young people.
Although we understood that some restrictions were in place to limit people who were not of a legal drinking age from viewing the ads, because we considered the comical, mischievous tone of the ad and the music and dancing featured would appeal particularly to young people, including those who were under 18, we concluded that the ad was in breach of the Code.
On that point, ad c) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Responsible advertising), 18.14 and 18.16 (Alcohol).
The ads must not appear again in their current form.