A TV ad for Johnnie Walker Black Label Whisky, seen on 25 November 2020, began with a scene showing a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label Whisky and a tumbler just over halfway full with what appeared to be whisky, ice and an orange peel on the counter of a bar. A hand grabbed the tumbler and the next scene showed a close-up of a woman taking a long, slow sip from it. On-screen text stated “EVERY SIP A STORY”, while a voiceover stated, “Its taste that makes an entrance, makes ice wish it lasted longer.”
A silhouette of a man and woman dancing then appeared briefly, followed by a close up of the whisky and ice swirling around in the tumbler while the voiceover continued, “A symphony of sweet, spice and smoke left smouldering on the lips.” The ad then switched back to the woman sipping slowly from the tumbler followed by a close-up shot of her holding onto the tumbler, which was just over halfway full with what appeared to be whisky and ice. On-screen text stated “JOHNNIE WALKER” and “drinkaware.co.uk for the facts” alongside the Johnnie Walker logo.
IssueThe complainant, who believed that the glass contained a large amount of neat alcohol and that the woman was drinking from it at length, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because it encouraged immoderate drinking.
Diageo Great Britain Ltd t/a Johnnie Walker said that the ad took the audience through a journey of taste and flavour of Johnnie Walker Black Label Whisky as shown by the woman’s experience. They said that the drink shown in the ad was a 50 ml serving of Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky, which was a standard alcohol measure not generally considered to be an excessive quantity to consume in one evening. The serving contained two units of alcohol, which was under the maximum advised amount set out in the UK Chief Medical Officer’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines.
The whisky was served on the rocks over five large ice cubes, which were 3.75 cm x 3.75 cm each, with an orange peel garnish in the tumbler. The sound of ice clinking against the sides of the tumbler was played at different points during the ad, which highlighted to viewers how the whisky was being served. The size of the ice cubes and orange peel garnish displaced the liquid and elevated it to just over the halfway point. The whisky was served in a lowball tumbler glass and its size was relative to the woman’s hand which made it clear to viewers that it was a short glass with a small capacity. They believed that most consumers would expect such a glass to be filled to just over the halfway point.
Johnnie Walker said that the woman was shown to slowly savour the taste of one sip of the drink and did not appear to be intoxicated or to consume alcohol rapidly in an irresponsible manner. There was no suggestion she intended to consume any additional drinks, and the voiceover made reference to ‘every sip’ not ‘every drink’ which made clear that everything was happening in slow motion. They said that the tumbler shown at the end of the ad contained almost the same amount of liquid as it did at the start of the ad, before the woman took a sip and that emphasised that the scenes depicted in the ad had taken place in the time it took for her to take a sip of the drink. For those reasons, Johnnie Walker believed that the ad was responsible and did not encourage immoderate drinking.
Clearcast said that they advised that a standard UK measure should be applied in ads for spirits and that alcohol should not be poured unmeasured into a glass or be shown with multiple servings. The drink was mixed with ice cubes and garnish, implying that it was a cocktail type drink rather than a neat serving of whisky. It was unusual to be served a lowball glass full of neat whisky, and they felt that it was self-evident from the ad that the drink was served with a mixer, as was common when ordering whisky in a bar. They did not consider the amount to be excessive but felt it was reflective of how whisky was generally served and consumed. There was no suggestion that the drink was one of many and there was no indication that the woman was going to continue drinking.
The ad showed her taking a sip from the drink, and “sip” was also emphasised in the on-screen text, suggesting that the drink was going be consumed slowly and carefully rather than in a rapid manner. They said that the overall impression of the ad was that Johnnie Walker should be consumed thoughtfully in order to enjoy the flavour.
The ASA noted that the tumbler in the ad was thick-rimmed with a solid base and just over halfway full with whisky, several large ice cubes and a piece of orange garnish. Because of their design and shape, we understood that it was not uncommon for whisky tumblers to reach over halfway full if they contained a large amount of ice.
We understood that the whisky serving in the ad was 50 ml, which was a standard double measure comprising two units of alcohol. The UK Chief Medical Officer’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines recommended that men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week on a regular basis and we considered that the amount of alcohol served in the glass was proportionate to that limit in one sitting. For those reasons, we did not consider that the glass contained a large amount of alcohol that was disproportionate to the usual serving style of whisky over ice and garnish.
The ad showed the woman taking a long, slow sip from the glass, which was just over halfway full. This scene was briefly inter-cut with others, before returning again to the woman who continued to sip slowly from the glass. While we recognised that some viewers might consider that the long, slow sip inter-cut with other scenes implied that she had been drinking from the glass for a period of time the glass still appeared to be just over halfway full after it was placed on the table and there was no further suggestion in the ad that she was drinking the whisky too quickly, for example, or that more than one drink was being consumed. We concluded that the ad did not imply, condone, or encourage irresponsible or immoderate drinking and had not breached the Code.
We investigated under BCAP Code rule
Advertisements must not feature, imply, condone or encourage irresponsible or immoderate drinking. That applies to both the amount of drink and the way drinking is portrayed.
References to, or suggestions of, buying repeat rounds of alcoholic drinks are not acceptable. That does not prevent, for example, someone buying a drink for each member of a group. It does, however, prevent any suggestion that other members of the group will buy a round. (Alcohol) but did not find it in breach.
No further action required.