ASA calls time on alcopop ads
Authority shows its WKD side
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a series of TV ads for "alcopops" WKD and Smirnoff Ice, citing "new rules and Guidance Notes" which came into force on 1 January 2005 "as a result of widespread concern about drinking behaviour among young people, including excessive or binge drinking and anti-social behaviour".
The ASA used in both cases CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rule 11.8.2 (a) (Alcoholic drinks) which states booze ads "must not be likely to appeal strongly to people under 18, in particular by reflecting or being associated with youth culture".
The first adjudication, against Beverage Brands (UK) Ltd  - the maker of WKD - examined two ads, the first of which it described as follows:
The first ad featured two men wandering around a shop looking for WKD. One pointed up to the shelf containing WKD and said There it is; the shop keeper jumped out at them from behind some shelves and said WKD huh? [He laughed hysterically] You naughty customers [he waggled his finger at them]. The two men looked surprised and started to leave the shop. The shop keeper waved his pricing gun at them as if it were a real gun and it spewed out price stickers. The shop keeper rushed out of the shop, pulled open his shop coat and displayed his T-shirt, on which the words I love my WKD side were printed, and said I'm loving my WKD side. The end caption stated Have you got a WKD side? and the voice-over said He's just not got it, have you?
The ASA concluded:
We considered that the humour in both ads was juvenile, that both ads employed themes that are either associated with youth culture or likely to appeal strongly to adolescents, that the shopkeepers behaviour, when he jumped out from behind some shelves and used his pricing gun as if it were a real gun, was make-believe play-acting normally associated with children and that his wacky, silly behaviour would appeal strongly to young peoples sense of humour.
It accordingly ruled:
We concluded that both ads had strong appeal to under 18s, breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rule 11.8.2 (a) (Alcoholic drinks) and should not be shown again.
The second adjudication against Diageo Great Britain Ltd  concerned "a range of Smirnoff Ice TV ads that all featured Uri, a chilled-out Eastern European loyal to Smirnoff Ice".
The ASA described the first in a series of seven thus:
The first ad showed Uri giving viewers a tour of his Arctic wilderness home saying My name is Uri and welcome to my house. Let me take you on a little tour. It's good ya [he warms his hands by a flat-screen computer monitor that showed a burning log fire]. Oooh [he watches a football match on a flat-screen TV hanging on the wall] My stereo. And this is my pride and joy, my refrigerator [he opens the door to the fridge and steps outside into the snow]. Nippy. Perfect temperature. This crazy boy here is my homeboy, Gorb. And this is the best thing about my place, the peace and quiet [he turns on his stereo to full volume]. Smirnoff Ice, brrrrr!
Diageo countered the alleged breach of rule 11.8.2 at some length, stressing it had "purposely chosen an entirely fictional male lead to avoid the use of existing celebrities", that "the heavy rock [soundtrack] from Quarashi, an Icelandic band not distributed in the UK, would have no youth appeal in the UK", and that it "had worked with a media-buying agency to ensure that a minimum of 75 per cent of the audience for the campaign was of legal purchase age or above".
Specifically regarding the ad outlined above, Diageo added that "the inspiration for the ad was the generic home improvement programme format on TV and they believed it was about a man having pride in his home, something that was more relevant to adults".
The adjudication notes: "Diageo maintained that interest in celebrities was not confined to young people. They argued that Uri and Gorb were not celebrities and the house tour was not of disproportionate appeal to under 18-year-olds. They said the ads mocked celebrity culture and parodied the obsession with how celebrities live by depicting a character who lives a distinctively unglamorous lifestyle. They maintained this satirical humour was clever, urbane and strikingly adult."
The ASA disagreed. Its assessment declared: "Despite Diageos careful scheduling, more than 92,000 under 18-year-olds viewed the ad. We considered that the rules were for the content of the ads, not the scheduling of them, and that targeting the ads so that the under 18s made up a low percentage of the audience did not mean the code did not apply."
The agency ruled:
We concluded that the characters were likely to become cult figures with strong appeal to under 18s and that all the ads that featured Uri or Gorb breached the CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rule 11.8.2 (a) (Alcoholic drinks) and should not be shown again.