Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Not upheld.
A YouTube video, seen on the Smirnoff Europe YouTube channel on 18 June 2016, promoted Smirnoff Vodka. It featured a girl looking bored at work and being sent a text saying “bring it” and replying “bring what” before showing several young people getting ready, taking a selfie, and each making their way to a nightclub, wedding and party. Images of a Smirnoff Vodka bottle with three different coloured shots were shown, which were then featured being used to make a toast and drunk. Typical club and party scenes followed, and one shot featured a bottle of Smirnoff. Throughout the ad, neon slogans appeared on screen, including “bring wherever you’re from”, “bring wherever you’re headed”, “bring your light”, “bring moves”, “bring drop it” and “Smirnoff #whatwebring”.
The complainant, who worked for Alcohol Concern and submitted this complainant on behalf of the Youth Alcohol Advertising Council (YAAC), challenged whether the ad:
1. implied that alcohol was the key component of social success and the success of a social occasion depended on the presence or consumption of Smirnoff;
2. was likely to appeal to under 18s, because it was reflective of youth culture; and
3. breached the rules on alcohol advertising, because it featured a girl who looked under the age of 25.
1. Diageo Great Britain Ltd t/a Smirnoff considered that the groups of people in the ad were already popular and happy irrespective of the presence or consumption of alcohol. By way of example, they stated that the woman in the shop at the start of the ad was smiling when contacted about meeting up that evening and there was no reference or implication of alcohol. They considered the phone messages stating “bring it”, “bring what?” and “whatever you got” were a reference to her bringing herself, and her personality, to the party. Similarly the other characters shown getting ready were in a good mood and were smiling, pouting and walking confidently, and those characters behaved similarly happily and confidently as they arrived at and subsequently enjoyed their parties.
They said there was no reference to alcohol in the ad and the implication from the superimposed text “bring wherever you’re from”, “wherever you are headed”, was that the individuals were socially successful, confident and happy irrespective of alcohol being present. They gave the further example that the neon slogans “bring moves” and “bring drop it” referred to dance moves and the music’s bass. They indicated that the slogans related to the different unique traits that different people brought to an occasion to make it more enjoyable.
They stated that alcohol was only shown halfway through the ad, as part of a toast, and was a very short sequence within a long ad. They considered the ad did not imply that alcohol was the key component of social success or that the success of a social occasion depended on the presence or consumption of Smirnoff, as the majority of the characters did not interact with the product during the ad.
2. Smirnoff considered the ad was likely to appeal to young adults in their mid-20s to early 30s rather than under 18s. They believed that youth culture, and its existence, was a subjective area. They acknowledged that the complaints had raised the following elements as examples of the basis of their complaint: use of selfies; graffiti; vibrant colours; and people likely to be considered cool.
Smirnoff considered that the practice of taking selfies on a mobile phone was now a widespread practice amongst many age groups, particularly the 18- to 35-year-olds. They pointed out that graffiti was only shown briefly in the background of a street scene and was prevalent in many European cities. They did not believe it was particularly reflective of youth culture and understood the vast majority of well-known graffiti artists were over 18. They did not think the bright colours were of particular appeal to under 18s, as they were not ‘cartoon-like’ or featured in an animated style. They were common features of nightclubs and vibrant street scenes in Bangkok where half of the scenes were filmed. They added that no characters were shown in the ad to be behaving in an adolescent or a juvenile manner. They considered that the ad did not depict the way teenagers lived their lives and stated the ad’s main stories were adult occasions, for example, attending nightclubs and getting married. They considered that the soundtrack to the ad was more popular with young adults in the 18 to 35 age range, based on the age range of the artists’ fanbases.
They added that the media placement for the ad was age targeted so that only adult YouTube users logged into their accounts were able to see the ad. They said extra due diligence had been carried out when arranging the paid media behind the ad, which ran for one month after the launch, and was included in media aimed at over 18s. As such they believed the ad would only have been accessible to those aged over 18.
3. Smirnoff confirmed they sought documentation to verify the age of their cast members. They stated they obtained a broad range of opinions from within their organisation and external agencies when casting characters to ensure the actors were, and also looked, over 25. They also ensured they canvassed views from those who were in their early to mid-20s, as they believed they were the best judge of the age of their peer-group. They were confident that the actors all appeared to be over 25. They stated that the woman at the start of the ad had discolouration under her eyes and was starting to show laughter lines between her nose and mouth and between her eyebrows, and did not believe those were characteristics usually seen on someone under the age of 25.
1. Not upheld
The ASA noted that the girl in the opening scene appeared bored before she received an invitation to attend a night out, but acknowledged there was no direct mention of alcohol in the invite. We also considered that she appeared happy on her way to her event and considered viewers would understand she had just finished work. We noted that the ad’s characters were not shown consuming alcohol before, or even at an early stage of, their social events. They were all seen to be excited and enjoying themselves before their arrival at their events and before any alcohol was shown being consumed.
Whilst we considered that the closing slogan, “Smirnoff #whatwebring”, could be interpreted to mean bringing the drink to a party, we noted the claim appeared in the context of other slogans like “bring your light” and “bring your moves”. We considered the slogans would be understood as a reference to each character bringing themselves and their personality to the event, and that this would, in turn, contribute to the success of the social occasion. In that context, we did not consider that “Smirnoff #whatwebring” implied that it was the brand or product which was the key component to providing social success, but was one element present at the events. We noted the Code allowed the consumption of alcohol to be portrayed as sociable.
Because we did not consider that the ad portrayed the consumption of alcohol as changing the characters’ moods, or that the ad depicted an obvious transition from an unsuccessful to a successful event by introducing alcohol, we did not consider that drinking alcohol would be seen as a key component of the success of the social events depicted. We therefore concluded that the ad did not breach the Code on that point.
On that point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code rules 18.1 18.1 Marketing communications must be socially responsible and must contain nothing that is likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that are unwise. For example, they should not encourage excessive drinking. Care should be taken not to exploit the young, the immature or those who are mentally or socially vulnerable. and 18.3 18.3 Marketing communications must not imply that drinking alcohol is a key component of the success of a personal relationship or social event. The consumption of alcohol may be portrayed as sociable or thirst-quenching. (Alcohol), but did not find it in breach.
2. Not upheld
We acknowledged that the ad featured selfies, graffiti, vibrant colours and characters likely to be considered attractive and popular, as well as fast cut scenes, neon lighting, dancing and party scenes. Whilst we considered that those elements might have some appeal to teenagers and young adults, we did not consider that those scenes would have particular appeal to under 18s, because the events depicted, such as the wedding and club scenes, did not appear juvenile in nature and were events likely to be attended by adult guests. Because we considered that the ad showed a more mature crowd and that neither the music, the dress, nor their behaviour were juvenile, we concluded the ad was unlikely to have particular appeal to under 18s and did not breach the Code on that point.
On that point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code rules 18.1 18.1 Marketing communications must be socially responsible and must contain nothing that is likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that are unwise. For example, they should not encourage excessive drinking. Care should be taken not to exploit the young, the immature or those who are mentally or socially vulnerable. and 18.14 18.14 Marketing communications must not be likely to appeal particularly to people under 18, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. They should not feature or portray real or fictitious characters who are likely to appeal particularly to people under 18 in a way that might encourage the young to drink. People shown drinking or playing a significant role (see rule 18.16 18.16 People shown drinking or playing a significant role must neither be nor seem to be under 25. People under 25 may be shown in marketing communications, for example, in the context of family celebrations, but must be obviously not drinking. should not be shown behaving in an adolescent or juvenile manner. (Alcohol), but did not find it in breach.
3. Not upheld
While we acknowledged that the girl who featured at the start of the ad had a youthful appearance, we did not consider that she, or any of the other character in significant roles, appeared to be under the age of 25.
On that point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code rules 18.1 18.1 Marketing communications must be socially responsible and must contain nothing that is likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that are unwise. For example, they should not encourage excessive drinking. Care should be taken not to exploit the young, the immature or those who are mentally or socially vulnerable. and 18.16 18.16 People shown drinking or playing a significant role must neither be nor seem to be under 25. People under 25 may be shown in marketing communications, for example, in the context of family celebrations, but must be obviously not drinking. (Alcohol), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.