What Has The ASA Been Drinking As It Bashes Creativity?

The ASA needs to sober up this morning and have a serious moment of reflection after its decision to ban a Smirnoff tv ad. When it wakes up and smells the coffee, the big issue it must come to terms with is how its nitpicking around what ads promote or do not promote can seriously get in the way of creativity. Sure, there need to be rules, but their overzealous application serves no one.

For those who haven't seen the Smirnoff ad that has just been banned by the ASA, you can take a look here. A basic summary is that a bunch of pretentious people are cleared out of a party scene before a very basic bar with normal people appears and a DJ plays a tune to get the fun started as a vodka is poured and the slogan "Filter the unnecessary. Keep the good stuff" appears.

Meanwhile, it should be pointed out that the ASA has not yet decided whether it will take action against Paddy Power for its recent immigration jibe poster. It drove a lorry to Dover with picture of famous British athletes born outside these shores with a slogan along the lines of immigrants are welcome so long as they're good at sport. It's obviously a joke, and comes in a long series of politically incorrect jibes by the bookmaker who was not so long ago advertising odds of whether blade-running Oscar Pistorius would "walk" from his murder trial.

Suffice it to say that with the Smirnoff ad, the last thing that happens is that a drink is poured. Despite the ASA saying the ad linked success of a party to alcohol, the thing that guaranteed the party would be fun was first getting rid of a bunch of posers and pretentious hipsters. Only then did the cool music start, and finally a drink was poured. The filtering of the unwanted had happened before anyone had touched a drop because Diageo obviously knows the rules.

It's an important point because regulation has become so ridiculously tight over key issues, particularly alcohol and cars, that creatives are becoming scared to do anything other than the very obvious. After Jaguar had an ad banned for showing a guy who seemed to accelerate down a London road (which had clearly been emptied for the shoot) carmakers have been scratching their heads. Shots of cars off-road are even being thrown away because they may be considered irresponsible, as is footage of cars speeding around tracks with very clear on-screen warnings that the images were shot on a track with a professional driver. 

I would ask you for a moment to then consider how many ads are screened for the very same "junk" food we're being asked not to eat too often and how many major sporting events are sponsored by brands such as Carling, John Smith's, McDonald's and Budweiser, to name just a few. Do these alcohol and fast food brands not celebrate on-pitch achievement and try to get a halo effect through their association? 

If the ASA continues to clip the wings of creatives by nitpicking its way through ads to see any way its rules can apply, then I'd suggest they will reduce creativity to supplying a copy of the logo to go on whatever cup two teams are competing for.

Diageo is set to appeal the Smirnoff ban -- and I sincerely hope, and expect, it will win. Creatives everywhere should have their fingers crossed too.

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