A TV ad for Smirnoff vodka depicted people standing in a bar, looking unfriendly and the ad was shot as if the camera were a person walking amongst them and through the bar. A bartender then poured vodka and a mixer into a glass and music started to play. The atmosphere of the bar became brighter and the people in the bar began to smile at each other and towards the camera. On-screen text stated "FILTER THE UNNECESSARY. KEEP THE GOOD STUFF".
The ASA challenged whether the ad implied the success of the social occasion depicted was dependent on the presence of alcohol.
Diageo Great Britain Ltd said the ad showed a move from a pretentious bar scene which showed people dressed in restrictive, extravagant clothing with sculpted hair styles that suggested an air of superficiality and a lack of comfort. In that scene, the visitor received a frosty welcome from those people who looked at him judgmentally. Following the tilt of the bar, the ad moved to a non-pretentious relaxed bar scene. The tilt acted as a physical division within the ad and where the pretentious items in the first scene were filtered out and the bar now had a warm friendly atmosphere.
In the second half of the ad, Diageo said the people were behaving in a natural and relaxed way because they were being themselves and not taking themselves too seriously. Consequently, they believed those people seemed friendly and approachable and therefore, that was a more welcoming environment. They noted that when the second scene began, the DJ and customers entered first, along with the change in music. They said everything else followed which demonstrated it was the removal of the pretentiousness from the first scene that was pivotal to the change in the ad, rather than the presence of alcohol.
Clearcast echoed Diageo's comments.
The ASA noted the different presentations of the bar in the ad and Diageo and Clearcast's comments that the bar tilting symbolised the "filtering" of the unnecessary personalities and attitudes presented in the first half of the ad. However, we considered the first half of the ad presented an unwelcoming and stand-offish environment, where those already at the bar appeared disinterested and unwilling to interact with the visitor. We considered the visitor signalled to the bar man for an alcoholic drink, and noted that immediately the atmosphere, personalities and appearance of the bar changed. Following the bar tender pouring the drink, the people at the bar were warm, friendly and inviting and the visitor freely interacted with them.
We considered the ad's presentation implied that before the visitor asked for an alcoholic drink, the bar was cold and uninviting and that once his drink had been ordered, the bar changed and became livelier and more fun. We considered the contrast between the two implied it was the presence of the alcohol that was the pivotal point in the bar's transformation. We therefore considered the ad implied that the success of the occasion − the night out at the bar − depended on the presence of alcohol. Consequently, we concluded the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility) and 19.4 19.4 Advertisements must not imply that drinking alcohol is a key component of social success or acceptance or that refusal is a sign of weakness. Advertisements must not imply that the success of a social occasion depends on the presence or consumption of alcohol. (Alcohol).
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told Diageo Great Britain Ltd not to imply alcohol contributed to the success of a social occasion.