Company: Whyte & Mackay Ltd
Final Decision: 13 October 2004
Considered under the 3rd Edition of the Code.
The complainant objected that various parts of the Vladivar.com website including the opening page, two television advertisements that were not allowed to be broadcast, certain requests for visitors to the site to send in photographs of themselves and some of the photographs submitted, were in breach of several Code paragraphs including 3.2(b), 3.2(c), 3.2(d), 3.2(g) and 3.2(h).
Member of the public, Middlesex.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(b)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous or anti-social behaviour.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(c)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with, acceptance of, or allusion to, illicit drugs.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(d)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with sexual success.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(g)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way have a particular appeal to under-18s.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(h)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way incorporate images of people who are, or look as if they are, under twenty-five years of age, unless there is no suggestion that they have just consumed, are consuming or are about to consumer alcohol.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel first considered whether the website suggested an association with bravado. The producers asserted that the website had no suggestion of bravado and that it was intended to be both humorous and ironic. They explained that the two so-called ‘banned’ tv advertisements featured on the site were not banned or tv advertisements but ‘viral’ advertisements and for the website only. The Panel noted the complainant’s concerns about claims including ‘look over someone’s shoulder and down their top’, ‘Have you got it?’ and ‘Will we get dark spots in our underwear watching you?’ as well as the two so-called ‘banned’ tv advertisements. It concluded, however, that neither these, nor any other part of the website associated the product with bravado. Hence, the Panel did not find the website in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(b).
The Panel then considered whether a photograph of a man smoking associated the product with illicit drugs. It did not agree with the complainant’s view that the man was clearly smoking a cannabis joint and hence did not find the website in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(c).
The Panel then considered whether the website associated the product with sexual success. The producers argued that one of the claims to which the complainant objected, ‘how do you like them apples?’, which accompanied a photograph of a woman was irreverent and humorous. The Panel agreed with the complainant that the website, through, for example, the claims ‘Fancy a threesome’, ‘How do you like them apples’, a photograph of a woman holding two vibrators and the two ‘banned’ tv advertisements, featured suggestive sexual references. In view of alcohol’s potential to impair judgement and affect behaviour, to link alcohol and sexual activity was undesirable because it might encourage and/or trivialise excessive consumption and potentially harmful attitudes and behaviour. It considered that Code paragraph 3.2(d) was designed to prevent such marketing approaches and concluded that the website either directly or indirectly associated the product with sexual success in breach of this paragraph. The Panel did not object to the producers seeking to promote their brand in an ironic and irreverent way. It considered, however, that in future they should take greater care to ensure that, in doing so, they did not adopt such overtly sexual approaches that associated the product with sexual success.
The Panel did not consider, however, that the women in the two cited photographs looked under 25 and hence, did not find these in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(h).
The Panel finally considered whether the website, particularly elements such as the pink colour scheme, unicorn in the tv advertisements and two photographs of people in Santa Claus and Batman outfits, had a particular appeal to under 18s. The producers argued that the design and colour scheme of the site as well as the Har Mar Superstar character and the pink unicorn were consistent with the approved tv advertisement from which it stemmed. They argued that there was not one colour palate for children and another for adults. They also pointed out that they had an ‘18 or over’ entry page through which consumers had to pass before being able to access the site. The Panel considered that the style of the website was designed to be ironic and its humour tongue-in-cheek. It considered that although the colour and decorative scheme might appeal to some young people, it had a much wider appeal to people of all ages, particularly the producer’s target audience of 18-25 year olds. The Panel therefore concluded that no elements of the website had a particular appeal to under 18s and hence did not find it in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(g).
Action by company
The producers said that they had taken down the website after being notified of the complaint and confirmed that they would consult the Advisory Service for guidance before re-launching it.