Diageo Fights Smirnoff Ad Ban in the U.K.

Advertising Standards Authority Rules European Spot is Irresponsible

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Diageo is appealing against the Advertising Standards Authority's decision to ban its "Filter" TV spot for Smirnoff vodka in the U.K., after the watchdog ruled that the ad is irresponsible.

The ASA did not receive any complaints from the public, but it ruled independently that the ad violates its codes on social responsibility, by showing alcohol consumption as a route to social success.

"Filter," created by 72andSunny Amsterdam, has been broadcast across Europe as part of a $25 million campaign. It shows a man walking into a bar where everyone is pretentious and unfriendly, but once he has ordered a Smirnoff, the bar tilts and the mood changes, so that it becomes a fun, lively place to be.

In a statement, Smirnoff marketing director Julie Bramham said, "We are deeply disappointed by the ASA's conclusion. We believe the advert clearly showed two scenarios that were separated by a physical change of the bar symbolizing the "filtering" of unnecessary pretentiousness, and not by presence of alcohol… we will await the decision of the ASA's appeal process."

Smirnoff vodka goes through ten stages of filtration during the distillation process -- the reference that Diageo claims it is making in the film, which carries the line, "Filter the unnecessary. Keep the good stuff."

However, the ASA judged that alcohol was the pivotal point in the bar's transformation, and that the ad implies that the success of a night out depends on the presence of alcohol, which is in breach of ASA codes.

The ASA received 19 appeals against rulings on TV spots in 2014, and 13 in 2013, but reversed their decision on only two occasions in each of those years.

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