Selling It… With Standards

If you’re ever at a loss for a hit of quasi-judicial material that’s easy on the brain and fun to read, try the adjudications of Britain’s ASA (no, as Michael lines would say, not that ASA, or that, or that or…), the Advertising Standards Authority. The association’s adjudications are made available on a well-designed website, week by week, set out with brevity, and linked to the particular standard that was alleged to have been violated. The one that caught my interest involved a broadcast ad by Moët Hennessy UK Ltd. that:

showed a man sitting on a couch with a woman on either side of him. Both women were looking at the man’s face and the woman on his left had her arm around his neck. On a table in front of them were plates of food, glasses of drink and a half full bottle of Belvedere vodka. Text stated “LUXURY REBORN”.

Because the internet provides everything, I’ve found a mini copy of the ad in question on a UK advertising industry site, which you can see on your right.

Someone complained to the ASA that this ad linked alcohol with sexual success and hence was “irresponsible.” According to the Committees of Advertising Practice Code, s.56.9:

Marketing communications must neither link alcohol with seduction, sexual activity or sexual success nor imply that alcohol can enhance attractiveness, masculinity or femininity.

To which injunction one might be tempted to respond: hmmm. The ruling is here, for those curious enough to wonder how the menage à trois matter turned out.

If sex and drugs aren’t your thing, there’s football, contact lenses, and
suburban Scotland, among other topics in the latest week’s adjudications.

Canada has it’s own advertising standards body, the ASC (Advertising Standards Canada), but complaints are dealt with in a less interesting and less transparent way, and outcomes are merely reported in a very summary way.

Finally, let me give vent to a peeve of mine: notice how the Canadian agency feels the need to identify that it’s in Canada, presumably for fear that someone in Singapore might be misled for a moment; whereas the UK agency doesn’t bother at all to identify it’s territorial jurisdiction but is simply comfortable in its skin. Canada should stop qualifying its agency names, as though they were branch plants of other enterprises: it’s bush.


  1. Well, in defence of including Canada’s name in the agency’s title, I would say:

    * it helps distinguish national or federal bodies from provincial counterparts, an issue that England does not have (and I suspect there are Scottish and Welsh councils and tribunals that do use the national name, i.e. when they need it, they use it)

    * we’re no more ‘bush’ than the Americans (no pun may be attempted here, please), who plaster “American” all over their agencies, though not all of them. THey have the same federalism reason as we do.

    * The British preference for just the name of the agency, without reference to ‘jurisdiction’, could also be seen as arrogance. The UK does not put its name on its postage stamps, on the ground that it invented postage stamps so it’s up to the rest of the world to distinguish itself from the original – and generally nowadays the UK does include a medallion portrait of the Queen as an identifier. Perhaps stating the function of a body without its location is a piece of the same attitude.