Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, on of which was Upheld and one Not upheld.
A TV ad for Captain Morgan rum, seen on 14 May 2016, featured a party on an old-fashioned wooden sailing ship. A man with Captain Morgan’s face, from the advertiser’s logo, superimposed over his own was shown dancing with friends, upending a sofa so that someone lying on it was tipped off into standing position, and using a rope to swing from one deck to another, as on-screen text stated “CAPTAIN THE DANCEFLOOR” and “CAPTAIN THE NIGHT”. The man was then shown posing with one foot on the railing at the front of the ship, with on-screen text that stated “PUT YOUR CAPTAIN FACE ON”. An image of a range of Captain Morgan products appeared alongside text stating “LIVE LIKE THE CAPTAIN”.
Alcohol Concern and a member of the public challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because it implied that:
1. drinking alcohol could contribute to an individual's popularity or confidence; and
2. the success of the social occasion depended on the presence or consumption of alcohol.
Diageo Great Britain Ltd said that the ad was part of a campaign to raise awareness of the Captain Morgan brand and emphasise the attitude that it embodied – one of camaraderie, enjoying time with friends and living life to the full. The tag lines used were consistent with this and also suggested taking charge of a night out and staying in control. They said that the Captain Morgan face, superimposed on the central figure, was intended to embody the brand and its attitude and did not symbolise alcohol consumption.
They stated that no alcohol was shown in the party scenes, and that the product was only shown in a still image at the end of the ad, alongside a responsible drinking message. Furthermore, they did not think that there was anything to suggest that the individuals shown had consumed or would consume alcohol. They added that even if the use of the superimposed face was interpreted as indicating that the character had consumed Captain Morgan rum, they still believed that there was nothing in the ad to suggest that either his personal attributes or the atmosphere of the event had been changed by drinking alcohol.
They said that the man with the Captain Morgan face was not shown to be more popular, confident or self-assured than the other partygoers, and there was no suggestion that he possessed personal qualities that were different from or superior to the other individuals shown. There was no transformational moment at which point his behaviour was shown to change, whether due to the consumption of alcohol or association with the Captain Morgan brand. None of the other dancers paid him special attention and none of them followed him as he moved into the new scenes. They believed that, in conjunction with the text stating “CAPTAIN THE NIGHT”, this emphasised that he was acting independently and was in control of his actions. Therefore they did not think that the ad implied that drinking Captain Morgan could enhance personal qualities and make individuals more confident and likeable.
Diageo stated that it was the sense of fun and camaraderie amongst the partygoers that was depicted as making the event successful, rather than the consumption of alcohol. They said it was clear from the opening shot of the ad that the party was in full swing, with people dancing and enjoying themselves. There was no increase in the level of enjoyment once the Captain Morgan figure appeared, nor as he moved around the ship taking part in different activities. They believed that this demonstrated that the lively atmosphere was attributable to the attitude of the people on the ship, rather than the consumption of alcohol or the presence of the Captain Morgan figure. Therefore, they did not think that the ad implied that the success of a social occasion depended on alcohol or that alcohol could transform a social occasion.
Clearcast stated that no alcohol was shown in the ad. They said that while the Captain Morgan figure could be seen as embodying the drink, they felt that he represented the brand as a whole rather than the consumption of alcohol. They stated that the idea of the ad was to show the character of the Captain as someone who liked to have a good time, but did not feel that drinking was necessary or essential for a party to happen, and while the figure was seen dancing and enjoying himself, he was never shown drinking or interacting with other guests. They felt that the ad was about the importance of having a good time, and conveyed that this included being responsible and ensuring that excessive alcohol consumption did not ruin your night. On that basis, they believed that the ad did not breach the Code.
The ASA acknowledged Diageo’s and Clearcast’s comments that imposing Captain Morgan’s face over that of the central figure was intended to link the man’s behaviour and experience to the brand’s attitude of fun and living life to the full, and to the historical figure that it was named after, and not to represent drinking. While we agreed that the use of the Captain’s face associated the character and his actions directly with the brand, we considered that viewers would equate the brand and the character with the product itself. Viewers were therefore likely to understand that the central figure’s behaviour resulted from his consumption of Captain Morgan rum.
We noted that the man with the Captain Morgan face was shown dancing next to a band performing, and then dancing alongside other partygoers. We noted that the body language of the other individuals in the scene did not suggest that they were paying any special attention to him and did not emphasise his popularity. In the scene where the man slid down a rope, we noted that two partygoers looked directly at him as he landed, but it appeared as if their attention had been drawn momentarily by someone appearing on the deck beside them and there was nothing to suggest that the man was being regarded with particular admiration. When he struck a pose at the end of the ad, we noted that the scene did not show others being drawn to him as a result. However, we also noted that the man was shown dancing in an uninhibited way, posing triumphantly at the bow of the ship and acting in a mischievous manner (for example, by upending the sofa), which we considered suggested confidence.
Diageo stated that the strapline “CAPTAIN THE NIGHT” referred to the fact that the man was acting independently, in control of his actions and taking charge of a night out. We acknowledged that his behaviour and interactions with others demonstrated that he was more concerned with having a good time than gaining social recognition, and could thus be seen as acting independently. However, we considered that the use of “captain” as a verb to mean being in charge or in control carried connotations of enhanced confidence, dominance, and ability to lead others. As such, we considered that the phrase “CAPTAIN THE DANCEFLOOR” also implied enhanced confidence and abilities on the dancefloor. In that context, we considered that the phrases “PUT YOUR CAPTAIN FACE ON” and “LIVE LIKE THE CAPTAIN” would be understood by consumers as invitations to achieve a confident, uninhibited attitude through consuming Captain Morgan rum. We considered that this impression was reinforced by the image of Captain Morgan products that appeared on screen at the end of the ad alongside the message “LIVE LIKE THE CAPTAIN”, as well as the repeated use of the word “captain”, which directly invoked the name of the product in a context of confidence. Although the ad did not explicitly depict drinking alcohol as resulting in a change in the central character’s behaviour in a “before and after” scenario, we considered that the superimposed Captain Morgan face implied that he had already consumed the product and thus linked his confident behaviour to this consumption. We concluded that the ad implied that drinking alcohol could enhance personal qualities and was therefore irresponsible.
The ad breached BCAP Code rule
Advertisements must neither imply that alcohol can contribute to an individual's popularity or confidence nor imply that alcohol can enhance personal qualities
2. Not upheld
We noted that the opening shots of the ad showed a ship on which a party appeared to be underway and then a scene of people dancing on the deck, before the man with the Captain Morgan face was introduced. We did not consider that there was any noticeable change in the upbeat, party atmosphere once he appeared. We noted that the party scenes did not show alcohol being consumed, and although we considered that the behaviour of the figure with Captain Morgan’s face would be understood as being associated with alcohol consumption, as described above, there was nothing to indicate that his actions had any positive or negative influence on the enjoyment of other partygoers. Therefore we concluded that the ad did not imply that the general success of the party was dependent on the presence or consumption of alcohol.
The ad was investigated under BCAP Code rule 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), but was not found in breach.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Diageo not to imply that alcohol could enhance people’s confidence.