A bus-side ad campaign for Diamond Mist e-liquids, featuring a Sir Mo Farah lookalike along with a version of his catchphrase “Mo’s mad for it!”, has been shunted off the road following complaints that it misleadingly implied the four-time Olympic champion had endorsed the product.
The issue was first raised in March, when it was revealed that Sir Mo had consulted his lawyers after having seen the ad, which featured an image of the eyes and eyebrows of a bald-headed man with the text: “Mo’s Mad for Menthol. Explore Our Vape Flavours: Find Your Favourite #switchtomist.”
At the time Sir Mo tweeted: “You may have seen this ad & think it’s me!! I can assure you that I have NOT endorsed this product or company!!!! We’re looking into it.”
Three complainants reported the ad to the Advertising Standards Authority, triggering an investigation.
In response, Diamond Mist said that the campaign was intended to appeal to a wide number of people, inclusive of all genders and ethnicities. It was created to connect a range of personal names to the various e-liquid flavours they sold by using alliteration and a strong colour palette.
The campaign included an ad based on the name Mo in addition to several other names, such as Claire, Lucy and Wang. Diamond Mist insisted the skin tone of the model in the ad was not similar to that of Sir Mo .
While the ASA noted that the model’s skin tone was lighter than that of the athlete, his bald head and eyebrow shape were reminiscent of his. The first name Mo (short for Mohammed) was very common, but the watchdog considered that Sir Mo was one of the most recognisable and well-known figures in the UK to go by that name.
The regulator also noted that Sir Mo had tweeted about the ad, saying that he did not feature in it and had not endorsed the product.
In its ruling the ASA stated: “Overall, we considered that the ad was likely to give consumers the misleading impression that the product had been endorsed by Sir Mo Farah. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.”
Banning the ad from appearing again in its current form, the ASA warned Diamond Mist not to imply that anyone had endorsed their products if that was not the case.
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