Virgin Holidays’ “Rockstar Service” campaign has certainly turned heads but a London Underground poster got a different reaction with a visual of guitarist and hotel staff member apparently pouring champagne into a jacuzzi. Stephen Groom surfaces and soberly reports the ASA’s sense of humour-free verdict.
Who: Virgin Holidays
Where: Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA")
When: September 2010
Law stated as at: 5 November 2010
The ASA received a complaint about a poster displayed at a London Underground station advertising Virgin Holidays.
Part of the eye-catching "Rockstar Service" campaign, the visual showed four rockstars apparently quaffing champagne in a hotel room Jacuzzi. Empty bottles and glasses lay around and one of the rockstars and a staff member were pouring in more champagne.
The copy made no express reference to the ablutions featured and ended "Virgin Holidays' unique Travel Guru service will ensure your every desire is met."
The complaint was that the poster promoted the misuse of alcohol.
Virgin Holidays said the depiction was not meant to be taken seriously and was intended to be an example of the most outlandish and decadent request that someone might make of the service advertised, exaggerated to show the level of service provided.
The ASA followed Virgin's drift, but felt that the scene depicted a "casual attitude towards the handling and consumption of alcohol." This combined with the fact that rockstars were widely accepted as glamorous and exciting figures persuaded the regulator that the actions were likely to appeal to under 18s and encourage people to adopt styles of drinking that were unwise.
The complaint was therefore upheld.
The relevant sections of the new CAP Code are 18.1 ( "…must contain nothing that is likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that are unwise..") and 18.14 ("…must not be likely to appeal particularly to people under 18…should not portray real or fictitious characters who are likely to appeal particularly to people under 18..").
Why this matters:
A first reaction to this decision might be to accuse the ASA of sense of humour failure, but with attitudes in this area hardening, particularly when it comes to under 18s, and the UK Government's chief health policy adviser calling for a blanket ban on alcohol ads in June 2010, it was perhaps pushing the envelope a little to show one rockstar holding two glasses of bubbly and another tipping a glass back behind his head.
But Virgin Holidays should at least be grateful. They evidently kept the depth of bubbly low enough to ensure that didn’t suffer a triple whammy by going down on CAP Code 18.12 as well ("..must not link alcohol with activities or locations in which drinking would be unsafe or unwise.")