The ASA ruled: “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Diageo Great Britain Ltd that its future advertising must not link alcohol with daringness or toughness.”
Two viewers complained the advert did indeed associate alcohol with daring, toughness and aggressive behaviour.
The TV ad for Captain Morgan featured scenes based on the adventurous lifestyle of the seventeenth century pirate. A number of scenes featured the buccaneer displaying swashbuckling behaviour, which drew the admiring glances of women.
Stripping off his shirt
The pirate was shown stripping off his shirt on his ship and then emerging from the water while his crew cheered him. The final shots showed the crew and the townspeople raising their glasses or arms to celebrate his accomplishments.
A voice-over said: “Make no mistake about that man on the bottle of Captain Morgan. That man was a legend. A hero, history remembers. A liver of life. A man who led with his heart and showed his crew a life more legendary. Captain Morgan. Live like the captain.”
The ad ended with the text message: “Captain Morgan … Live like the captain … Drink responsibly captain’s orders ... for the facts drinkaware.co.uk”.
The ASA upheld the complaint, after judging that the depiction of the character and his actions, placed alongside the slogan “Live like the captain”, in an ad for rum, did link alcohol with daringness and toughness.
‘Renowned for drinking rum’
The ASA noted scenes showing the captain driving a carriage at speed, searching a cave for treasure and emerging from the sea having apparently dived from his ship. “We considered that those actions and the settings shown in the ad would be associated with buccaneers and seafarers renowned for drinking rum, and for their disregard for authority and the well-being of themselves and others.”
A second complaint – which claimed the advert implied that drinking alcohol was a key component of social success – was not upheld. The advertising watchdog ruled that the buccaneer’s popularity was gained through his heroic accomplishments, not through the consumption of alcohol, which was “depicted as a way of celebrating the moment”.
Therefore, the ASA concluded: “The ad did not imply that drinking alcohol was a key component of social success and for that reason did not breach the [advertising] code.”
Diageo denied the advert implied drinking alcohol was a key component of social success or that the success of a social occasion was dependent upon the presence or consumption of alcohol.
“All the scenes were set in a stylised historic way so as to educate consumers that Captain Morgan was based on a genuine historical buccaneer character and illustrated the brand’s heritage in a positive and responsible light,” it argued. “All scenes were highly stylised and were contextualised within the historical narrative of the advert, and were far-removed from the ‘real-life’ of today.”
Earlier this week the ASA pledged to review online advertising targeted at children.