Online grocery delivery service Gorillas has been whacked by the ad watchdog over its “Whatever London wants” campaign, after ruling that tongue-in-cheek references to drugs, sex and excessive alcohol consumption were irresponsible and likely to cause serious offence.
The TV, video on demand and social media ads were the first work by agency The Or, which was awarded the account in 2021 without pitch.
But it seems the agency took its brief to bringing to life the weird and wonderful ways that Londoners use Gorillas a little too literally. The activity, which featured a series of short scenes, opened with a man chopping lemons as the voiceover stated “London loves acid”.
Other scenes included a voiceover saying “poppers” as a cork popped off a Champagne bottle, “getting smashed” as a woman mashed avocado, and “blow” as a woman sneezed, and “a bit of grind” while a man scrubbed a bathroom floor and “getting wet” as a man showered and a second person’s arm cleaned his chest.
The TikTok and Instagram ads featured a hungover man saying: “So I just woke up. Slightly hungover … Literally delivered in minutes. Eggs. Sourdough. A few beers obviously. If the hangover doesn’t go.”
The Advertising Standards Authority received 26 complaints that the ads made references to sex, drugs and excessive drinking, normalised and condoned drug use and were inappropriate for children to see.
In response, Gorillas refuted the claims, insisting it did not consider the scenes to be graphic, inflammatory or offensive and believed that sexually suggestive ads that used humour were acceptable within the wider context of the ad.
The firm said it did not condone illegal drugs or drug use but understood that a reference to drugs in advertising may be acceptable as long as the ad did not condone illegal, drug-related behaviour.
TikTok said the ad was targeted at users aged 18 and above but it had been removed from the platform because it violated its policy prohibiting the promotion of alcohol.
In its ruling, the ASA said the references to “blow” and “acid” would be widely understood as referring to illegal drugs. Poppers, while legal to purchase, could not be sold as products for human consumption.
The ASA said presenting drugs as a subject of humour would be seen to have encouraged apathy towards dangerous substances.
Similarly, “hitting the bottle” and “getting smashed” would be understood as unhealthy or irresponsible behaviours related to alcohol.
It also noted that the ad made several references that some would interpret as explicitly sexual in nature with no relevance to the advertiser’s service.
Banning the ads from appearing again, the ASA said: “We concluded that the ads were irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence.”
The watchdog also cautioned Gorillas over future activity, warning the firm to ensure that any new ads did not feature references to drugs, sex and excessive or unhealthy drinking.
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