Macallan whisky has had its wings clipped by the ad watchdog after a TV spot portraying a man leaping off a cliff was branded socially irresponsible.
The 90-second ad, devised by J Walter Thompson, shows a man jumping from a high ledge and tumbling towards the ground. As he falls, feathers start sprouting out of his arms and he begins to grow wings. On-screen text states “Would you risk falling … for the chance to fly?”
As he approaches the ground he disappears from view behind a mountainside and then reappears after he has pulled out of the nosedive and starts to fly upwards now that his wings are fully grown. An end-frame features text stating “The Macallan. Make the call” which was accompanied by an image of the whisky product in a glass.
On release, JWT said: “Hopefully it will be noticed for being different.” However, six consumers noticed the ad – which ran across TV, ITV Hub and Instagram – was also reckless. They complained to the Advertising Standards Authority that it was irresponsible and linked alcohol with daring, toughness or irresponsible behaviour.
In its defence, brand owner Edrington Distillers insisted that the “Make the call” ethos described the brand’s philosophy and it was used in relation to the decisions that the brand made in its own history, and was also relevant to the audience’s decisions made in their own lives.
The firm claimed the treatment of the story was mystical, almost mythical, and was clearly removed from the real world. It also insisted out the ads did not show anyone consuming alcohol. The story was simply a metaphor about making decisions.
However, these arguments fell on stony ground over at the ASA, which ruled that the character’s decision to jump off the cliff was extreme risk-taking behaviour.
The watchdog added: “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.”
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