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Laphroaig Opinions Welcome ad complaint dismissed

A complaint that claimed a Laphroaig advert linked alcohol to sexual activity has not been upheld.

The Laphroaig ad showed reactions to people tasting the whisky for the first time
The Laphroaig ad showed reactions to people tasting the whisky for the first time

The TV advert, seen in the UK on 31 October 2020, was shown as part of the brand’s Opinions Welcome campaign. The latest iteration of the campaign featured a film titled ‘You’ll always remember your first Laphroaig’, which was aired from 26 October.

Developed by creative agency Warp and Woof, the campaign ran across video on demand platforms including Sky Go, ITV and All 4, as well as Facebook and Instagram.

The ad was challenged by one complainant on the basis of two issues: it linked alcohol to sexual activity and it portrayed alcohol as indispensable. In a ruling today (6 January), the UK’s advertising watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) dismissed the complaint.

The advert showed a number of people examining and tasting the Islay Scotch whisky for the first time, along with on-screen text that read ‘One whisky, many opinions’. The ad showed a close up of one man who was sipping the whisky, followed by a still photo of him with the text ‘You’ll always remember your first’ and then the word ‘Laphroaig’.

The ad also showed numerous facial expressions of other people who had tasted the whisky and their reactions. There was also a slow motion close up of a man who licked his lips while looking sideways, while another man gazed at his whisky glass and said ‘I think I love you’.

The ad concluded with a bottle of Laphroaig with two glasses of the whisky and the text ‘Are you ready for your first Laphroaig?’ Smaller text at the bottom of the screen stated ‘100% genuine reactions of people trying Laphroaig for the first time. All reactions are their own’.

In response to the complaint, Edrington-Beam Suntory UK, the sales, marketing and logistics joint venture of spirits producers Edrington and Beam Suntory, said that Laphroaig was known for its ‘bold and smoky taste’, which often led to ‘strong reactions’.

As such, the brand’s campaigns utilise this fact to show the differing reactions of those who try Laphroaig for the first time. The Opinions Welcome campaign was first launched in 2014.

The first 10 seconds of the ad established its focus on tasting the whisky, the company said. This introduction therefore clarified what ‘your first’ meant. Furthermore, the brand noted that the ad showed that the whisky provided split opinions, including the line ‘I think I love you’, which was a genuine reaction. The company said it believed this statement does not portray the whisky as indispensable, but instead showed a positive reaction.

In its assessment, the ASA said it also recognised the possible interpretation that the ad could be seen as referring to losing one’s virginity. However, the ASA believed it could refer to other ‘firsts’ and found that the ad’s overall impression illustrated the different reactions people had when facing a distinctive taste for the first time.

The ASA concluded that the ad did not link alcohol with sexual activity, sexual success or seduction, or portray alcohol as being indispensable.

The clearance body for TV ads in the UK, Clearcast, also found that there was no link between alcohol and sexual activity in the ad. The organisation said the line ‘You’ll always remember your first” could relate to many ‘firsts’ in life, and that it was ‘clearly contextualised’ in the Laphroaig ad.

Furthermore, Clearcast said the facial expressions were not suggestively sexual in nature, especially due to the clear context.

Clearcast also felt that the average consumer would understand that the statement ‘I think I love you’ was made to express a love for the flavour of the whisky, and not to mean that the product was indispensable. The ASA also noted that this line and the man’s happy expression would likely be seen as ‘lighthearted’.

Mike Mackenzie, Laphroaig brand manager at Edrington-Beam Suntory UK, said: “We are pleased with the outcome of the ASA investigation, which has found that our Opinions Welcome campaign did not breach any sections of the BCAP Code. Laphroaig is a whisky well known and loved for its bold and smoky taste, and we are proud of our advert which captures the genuine – and often amusing – reactions of first-time drinkers.”

The Laphroaig advert is available to watch below. 

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