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Arrive Boldly: Smirnoff Double Black Campaign is not Catching Fire

Arrive Boldly is a tagline of Diageo Australia advertising for Smirnoff Double Black. With AUD 8 million (US $7,04 million) budget this integrated marketing campaign is indeed bold. For some viewers too bold.

Smirnoff Double Black launch is very important for Diageo Australia. Full strength bottled spirits (FSBS) vodka category was recently undermined by Ready to drink (RTD) spirits. Diageo achieved success in RTD with its Smirnoff Ice Double Black that is currently #1 selling RTD brand by value within white spirits pre-mix across Australia.

Arrive Boldly Smirnoff Retail Advertising - Drinksweekly 13 December 2013

Arrive Boldly Smirnoff Retail Advertising – Drinksweekly 13 December 2013

Smirnoff Double Black vodka is a double freeze filtered vodka featuring a bold black bottle design. It is intended to repeat the success from RTD  within FSBS, and entrench Diageo with Smirnoff brand on the top position in Australian market. Diageo has 51.5% market value share of the segment with Smirnoff brand as key growth driver at 41% market value share [Aztec MAT April 2013, Source: DrinksTrade].

Campaign Arrive boldly consist of Cinema, Digital, Outdoor, POS and Sampling activities. It is produced by Leo Burnett Sydney and produced by Exit Films, media are planned by Ikon Communications Video for the campaign was directed by Emmy Award nominee Garth Davis and is accompanied with music of Lana Del Rey (Video Games).


Both video and outdoor raised complaints to The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code Scheme Ltd. (ABAC) and to The Alcohol Advertising Review Board (AARB). Those industry regulatory bodies have already reviewed complaints and we can discuss here what was questioned and how Diageo answered to the complaints. It has to be noted, that Diageo Australia is part of the ABAC and does not recognize the AARB authority.

The ABAC Panel has dismissed both complaints, while the AARB upheld them partially and asked Diageo Australia to withdraw or modify advertisement. Here you can read full documents: ABAC TV, ABAC Outdoor, AARB YouTube, AARB Outdoor.

At K-message we will discuss the ABAC consideration regarding video advertisement to showcase how alcohol advertising has to be carefully produced in alignment to regulations, and how difficult it is to say what is too bold to be approved.

The Ad

The complaint refers to a cinema advertisement for Smirnoff that screened prior to a 6.30pm session of the movie “The Hunger Games Catching Fire” at Hoyts Cinema on 23 November 2013.

The Complaints

The complainant is concerned that:

  1. a. any alcohol ads are shown with a film aimed at young people under 18, particularly a film of a book that is popular with teenage girls (Hunger Games);

  2. the advertisement is constructed to be pitched directly at teenage girls, and takes advantage of vodka being the drink of choice for underage girls.

  3. The advertisement glamorises alcohol and is directed to children.

The Code

The ABAC provides at Section (a) that advertisements for alcohol beverages must:

a) present a mature, balanced and responsible approach to the consumption of alcohol beverages and, accordingly –

ii) must not encourage underage drinking

b) not have strong or evident appeal to children or adolescents

How to make sure you are compliant in alcohol advertising.

We recommend you reading the full document with the Advertiser comments and the ABAC Panel’s view. Below we will discuss the main points why this complaint was dismissed.

First, the ABAC regulates content and not placement of the advertisement. Anyway, Diageo Australia has made sure, that it is clear of any assumptions of advertising to the audience under legal purchase age (LPA) which in Australia means 18 years old.

LPA provisions undertook by Diageo:

  • The creative agency was instructed to target LPA audience in segment 18-22 y.o.
  • Media planning agency was instructed to purchase media targeted to 18-24 y.o.
  • Purchased media were targeted to 75% LPA+ audience
  • Advertisement has passed The Alcohol Advertising Pre-Vetting Service (AAPS) review.
  • “The Hunger Games”, the first film in the series released in 2012, had a cinema viewership of 79.4% LPA+, therefore Diageo had documented reasonable expectation, that more than 75% of the audience of “The Hunger Games Catching Fire” will be in LPA+.
  • “The Hunger Games Catching Fire” is rated M15+ and is recommended for mature audiences.
  • All actors/models featured in the advertisement are 25+ y.o. and their IDs were checked before recruiting.
  • Diageo has obtained data  from Lana Del Rey’s Australian record label, Universal Records in Australia, saying that 80.2% of Lana Del Rey’s Facebook fans are 18+ and 88.4% of Spotify streams are 18+.
  • Lana del Rey herself is 27 y.o.


The Hunger Games Catching Fire

The Hunger Games Catching Fire (Photo credits: Giphy)

As one can clearly see there are lots of details to be checked while planning, producing and broadcasting alcohol advertisements. It is extremely important for the advertisers to have professionals on board and to be aware of any regulation on the market.

It is easy to imagine the case where Diageo misses any of the points, and the advertisement has to be withdrawn. The stake is not only 8 million australian dollars, but also the launch of one of the extremely important product that may decide on the whole category in Diageo Australia portfolio.

In regulated industries it is very important to arrive boldly, but even more important is to arrive well prepared. And we do not advertise “pre-loading” with vodka here.

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About Piotr Wrzosiński

Piotr Wrzosinski is a sociologist focused on digital marketing in highly regulated industries. He combines experience from top players in tobacco, financial services, and pharma with a passion to the content marketing and technology. All opinions posted are his own unless stated otherwise.

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