Jack Daniel’s left with hangover by sobering ASA decision

Mar 1st '24

Further reminder of how seriously the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will enforce the laws around alcohol advertising comes from a ruling over an advertisement for Jack Daniel’s No. 7. It has also brought attention to how crucial it is to make sure alcohol advertising adheres to social responsibility and how hazy the boundaries between appropriate and inappropriate message may be. And we are aware of how challenging it may be to maintain a straight gait after drinking.


Another interesting to point to note is to mention is that the ban was the consequence of a single complaint from a person who saw the advertisement on the London Underground. Anyone who has lately had the displeasure of using the Tube will know that it is packed, much like it was before the plague. Millions of people must have seen it, but they merely voiced complaints, which led to a thorough inquiry and a prohibition. Was the complaint on a mission and not a drinker? If that’s the case, you better hope you never have to stand next to them at a party. Or were they someone nursing a severe hangover and promising themselves they wouldn’t drink too much alcohol ever again before leaving for work?


The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code states that marketing communications for alcohol must be socially responsible and must not contain anything that is likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that are unwise. It also requires that marketing communications do not imply that alcohol might take priority in life or that drinking alcohol could overcome boredom.


A Jack Daniel’s ad showed a group of friends sitting around a table, with some of them holding glasses of the beverage while others were seen mixing Jack Daniel’s with a mixer in one glass. “Shorter days mean we can skip to the good part.” Text at the bottom of the poster stated “Jack Daniel’s: Make it count.” and further text underneath that stated “Remember the good parts. Please drink responsibly”.


The complainant questioned whether the advertisement was irresponsible and violated the Code because it encouraged people to start drinking earlier in the day, suggested that alcohol might take precedence in life, and encouraged adopting risky drinking habits.


Jack Daniel’s argued that the poster showed a social occasion among friends, and the drinks featured were not irresponsible or excessive.


The ASA determined that the advertisement’s main focus was on the alcohol, since the two people in the image are the ones filling a glass with Jack Daniel’s and mixer. The advertisement’s large image of a bottle of Jack Daniel’s at the bottom and other people carrying glasses of the beverage further underlined this.


According to the ASA, the reference to “shorter days” meant that British Summer Time would cease and Greenwich Mean Time would take effect, meaning that there would be less daylight hours and an earlier sunset. The ASA also believed that consumers would interpret “the good part” as being the use of alcohol, especially Jack Daniel’s. The advertisement indicated that the remainder of the day was uninteresting and something to be suffered by saying that “shorter days” allowed customers to “skip to the good part” of the day, or the evening when it was socially acceptable for customers to consume alcohol. According to the ASA, drinking alcohol might help people get through the boring parts of the day and make “the good part” of the day seem more important. In addition, the ASA believed that the advertisement promoted consumers to drink more alcohol than they typically would have since it pushed them to start drinking earlier in the year than they otherwise would have.


The ASA acknowledged that the commercial’s message was to “Remember the good parts. Please drink responsibly”. However, the additional mention of the “good parts” reinforced the impression that drinking alcohol was the most enjoyable part of the day and that it therefore took priority in life. It took into account that the advertisement’s message of drinking responsibly did not alter the viewer’s perception.


The ASA believed that the advertisement suggested alcohol may take precedence in life and that it promoted adopted drinking habits that were foolish as it suggested that consuming alcohol might beat boredom and urged individuals to start drinking earlier than normal. As a result, it was determined that the advertisement violated the CAP Code and was reckless.


This exemplifies some of the issues with the ASA’s operations and appears to be a fairly literal implementation of the Code. Out of the millions of individuals who would have seen this advertisement, just one person has complained. After that, it was looked at by an ASA Executive who interpreted the regulations literally without pausing to consider whether the typical consumer would actually interpret this as an invitation to start drinking earlier in the day in order to pass the time. Although the ASA Council has the last say, it’s unclear if they truly discussed the matter at the conference table or if they just clicked “approve” after going over their weekly batch of judgements. At least we can assume that they were completely sober when they did it! However, it raises the question of whether we are merely moving closer to a complete ban on advertising for lawful products when the regulations governing alcohol advertising are enforced so rigidly in response to a single complaint.


But, given the new regulations on alcohol advertising that go into effect on May 14, the decision serves as a helpful reminder to make sure your alcohol advertising is responsible.


ASA Ruling on Brown-Forman Beverages Europe Ltd t/a Jack Daniel’s


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