A TV ad, video on demand (VOD) ad and a paid-for ad on Instagram for Macallan whisky, seen in December 2018:
a. The TV ad featured a man leaping off a cliff and tumbling towards the ground. As he fell, feathers started sprouting out of his arms and he began to grow wings. On-screen text stated Would you risk falling ... for the chance to fly?. As he
approached the ground he disappeared from view behind a mountainside and then reappeared after he had pulled out of the nosedive and started to fly upwards now that his wings were fully grown. An end-frame featured text stating The Macallan.
Make the call which was accompanied by an image of the whisky product in a glass.
b. The VOD ad, seen on the ITV hub, was a longer version of ad (a), but featured similar imagery and on-screen text. Unlike ad (a), that ad did not feature an image of the whisky product.
c. The paid-for ad on Instagram featured a video that was identical to ad (b). Issue
Six complainants challenged whether the ads were irresponsible and linked alcohol with daring, toughness or irresponsible behaviour.
Edrington Distillers Ltd t/a Macallan explained that the line Make The Call was used globally to describe the brand's philosophy. It was used in relation to the decisions that the brand had made in its own history, and was also relevant to the
audience's decisions made in their own lives. They said the ads featured a fantastical story about a man who took a big decision (i.e. made a call), found it difficult along the way, but was eventually rewarded. They believed the treatment of the
story was mystical, almost mythical, and was clearly removed from the real world.
In relation to ad (a), Clearcast explained that they had considered the daring and toughness Code rule when clearing the ad, and had decided that the treatment was fantastical enough to be acceptable.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The ASA noted that the opening scene in all versions of the ad featured the man running and jumping off a cliff, and considered that could be seen as being reminiscent of the extreme sport of base-jumping. We noted that at that point in the ads,
there was no suggestion that the male character had any super-human attributes or powers, or that he was part of a mythical world; we considered the scenery featured was a typical mountainous landscape. We noted that in ads (b) and (c) the
character was seen peering over the edge of the cliff and there was a close-up of him clenching his fists. We considered that gave the impression that he was nervous about jumping and was building up the courage to do so. In that context, we
considered that the act of jumping off the cliff was very dangerous, potentially fatal, and consisted of extreme risk-taking behaviour. That impression was compounded by the text Would you risk falling ... for the chance to fly?.
Whilst we acknowledged that some elements of the ad were fantastical, such as the distance the man fell through the clouds, and the sprouting of wings which enabled him to fly away instead of hitting the ground, we considered, nevertheless, that
the central message of the ad, which was explicitly highlighted through the tagline Would you risk falling ... for the chance to fly?, was one of promoting risky or daring behaviour to reap possible rewards. Although the character was not seen
consuming alcohol at any point, we considered the ads made a clear association between an alcoholic product and potentially very dangerous, daring behaviour and concluded that they were irresponsible.
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Edrington Distillers Ltd t/a Macallan to ensure in future their ads did not link alcohol with daring, toughness or irresponsible behaviour.
An amusing advert for AirAsia has wound up the easily offended in Australia. The advert containing the phrase Get off in Thailand was posted around the city of Brisbane to promote the airline's direct route to Bangkok.
Collective Shout, a feminist campaign group claimed that the advert was promoting sex tourism in Thailand.
Melinda Liszewski, a campaigner at Collective Shout spotted the adverts on a Brisbane bus and posted the image to social media. She accused the airline of promoting sex tourism.
A spokeswoman for Air Asia told the BBC:
AirAsia takes community feedback extremely seriously and the airline sincerely apologises for any inconvenience caused from recent concerns raised.
AirAsia can confirm the advertising campaign has ended and we instructed our media partners to have the advertising removed as soon as possible today from all locations.
Brisbane City councillor Kara Cook branded the campaign an absolute disgrace and said it should never have appeared on our city's streets.
Just before Christmas last year, one person complained that a South African TV commercial for Chicken Licken was offensive and the ad was duly banned.
The advert was quite witty and made for a good news story which was picked up by major newswire services such as the Associated Press and AFP. News that SA's new regulator, the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) had deemed the ad offensive
popped up in New Zealand, Australia, America, India, and the UK. In South Africa, of course, social media homed in on the ad and it went ballistically viral.
So, if the ARB had thought about the implication of their ban and just ignored that one complaint the ad campaign would have run for a few more weeks and given the declining number of viewers who actually watch commercial breaks on TV these days,
perhaps a few hundred thousand viewers would have seen it. Instead, in South Africa alone the ad was viewed by millions of people. Quite possibly hundreds times more than would have seen the ad on television.
So, instead of protecting the sensitivities of those few people who might have found the ad offensive, banning it simply compounded the very problem the ARB was trying to solve.