Commentary

Red Bull Gives You Whinge

Last week, Red Bull, iconic “media company” -- and in its spare time, energy drink manufacturer -- lost a landmark (and borderline insane) lawsuit. It was sued by customers who said they were misled by the famous slogan: “Red Bull gives you wings.”

As it turns out (and this may be a shock to you), Red Bull does not (I repeat, not) give you literal wings. Buffalo wings prepared in Red Bull, perhaps -- but when it comes to providing real wings, that task is reserved for angels and not mere mortals like us (at least while we are alive).

As a result, Red Bull has to pay anyone who has consumed the drink in the past 12 years either $10 cash or $15 in product. The total compensation is a whopping $13 million. Please note my complete sarcasm in the word “whopping,” as it relates to a mere fraction of the total paid media devoted to the scandalous (again sarcasm) misrepresentation and downright false advertising.

It reminds of the Three Wolf Moon T-shirt that I wrote about in “Flip the Funnel,” (noted in the actual Wikipedia entry) where people gave the shirt either one or five stars on Amazon.com based on whether wearing the T-shirt immediately made them irresistible to supermodels and gave them other superpowers. The shirt also sold like wildfire as a result of this meme.

The obvious reaction to this ridiculous lawsuit is something along the lines of “How dumb can people possibly be?” That said, there are some pretty serious implications in the process.

To begin, one person’s “dumb” is another’s “naiveté.” Whereas the Red Bull case might be an extreme illustration of this, there are way too many commercials (with their corresponding claims) that fit into an extremely murky grey area of subjectivity, ambiguity and questionable integrity. And if a court is ruling in favor of granting supernatural powers, imagine how P&G and the like must be quaking in their boots right now with the likes of Old Spice.

For what it’s worth, the claim was based on a more realistic enhanced-performance claim -- a less literal interpretation of “wings” associated with an unfair advantage thanks to the energy drink.

Also, on the subject of “dumb,” were consumers presumed dumber back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, when ad folks pitched lines like “Blow smoke in her face and she’ll follow you anywhere,” for Tipalet cigarettes; “For a better start in life, start cola earlier,” showing a mother holding her baby, from The Soda Pop Board of America; and that all-time classic, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette”?

All real ads.

Dumb? Naïve? Gullible? Or duped by good old Don Draper (he has since reformed with respect to big tobacco) and Madison Avenue?

I wonder whether advertisers will look at this ruling as a complete anomaly and utter debacle -- or if, in fact, they will begin to think twice about lying for a living -- at least according to Jerry Seinfeld, who recently bit the hand that fed him so long in his acceptance speech for winning an honorary Clio.

What do you think?

And as a final thought paying homage to the phrase, “from the sublime to the ridiculous,” what if this was just a conspiracy, where phantom customers “sued” Red Bull in an elaborate hoax and wily premeditated sampling effort?

I don’t know about you, but I’m taking $15 of Red Bull product myself. I think I earned that from one SxSW festival alone!

P.S.: You can claim your cash or product settlement here.

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