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Black Cow vodka ‘surprised’ by ad ban

A Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka co-founder has expressed “surprise” that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned three of the brand’s ads after ruling they are “socially irresponsible” and link alcohol with sexual activity.

Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka has had three ads banned, including one depicting a couple in a meadow

In a ruling published today, the ASA says two of the adverts were reported by a member of the public, while the ASA itself challenged a third.

The first advert ran in a print edition of The Week and depicted a satirical cartoon-style cow driving a sleigh with the message “so smooth you can drink it until the cows come home”.

While the Black Cow Vodka team argued the super-premium price of the vodka meant it was not intended to be bought or consumed in excess, the ASA found the phrase “until the cows come home” was in breach of CAP 18.1, encouraging “unwise” drinking.

A second complaint that the cartoon-style advert would appeal to children was not upheld by the ASA because The Week has a predominantly adult audience that regularly features satirical cartoons.

The second banned ad was a video entitled “New Black Cow film from Jake Scott” which ran on the brand’s website. The film depicts a young man and woman walking through a field before showing a depression in long grass and the brand’s name and bottle.

A complaint was brought which claimed the ad linked alcohol consumption with sexual activity. In response, the Black Cow team said the video was in line with the “literary heritage of Dorset”, where the vodka is made, but placing it in a “Hardy-esque” scene. In addition, they argued the ad featured a walk in the country and not sexual activity.

The ASA upheld the complaint, noting: “While we acknowledged that the ad did not directly depict any sexual activity, we considered that viewers were likely to understand from the combination of the couple’s body language, the depression in the grass, and the overall tone of the ad, that they had just had sex.” As such, the ad was found to be in breach of rule 18.5, which rules that communications “must neither link alcohol with seduction, sexual activity or sexual success nor imply that alcohol can enhance attractiveness”.

The third Black Cow Vodka campaign to be banned was a spoof video of the 1989 “Accrington Stanley milk” which replaced the milk bottles with Black Cow Vodka bottles.

The ASA itself challenged whether the ad encouraged excessive drinking. While Black Cow Vodka said the ad should be viewed in the super-premium “context”, the ASA ruled it could promote “socially irresponsible” drinking.

“While we noted that this was a literal recreation of the original ad, we considered that the large quantity of vodka depicted, and the replacement of the empty bottles with full ones, was nonetheless still likely to be understood as implying and encouraging excessive drinking,” the authority said.

“We are surprised by the ASA complaints and certainly didn’t set out to offend anyone,” said Paul Archard, co-founder at Black Cow Vodka.

“Our adverts were meant to be witty and innocuous;  we do feel that the comments are disproportionate.  Black Cow Vodka is a super-premium brand costing over £30 per bottle and it is not intended to be bought or consumed in excess.”

Last year, the ASA threw out a complaint that an Australian radio advert for Aldi’s whisky brand was “racist” towards Scottish people by implying they “cannot be understood”.

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