Diageo dodges rap over "violent" Baileys ad

Diageo escaped a rap on the knuckles from the advertising watchdog after viewers complained about Baileys ads featuring a woman kicking a man in the face.

Nine viewers complained that the Baileys ads promoted alcohol using “violent and aggressive behaviour”, claiming Diageo broke the Advertising Standards Authority’s code.

But Diageo argued that because the ads were set in a fairytale land and portrayed a well-known, fantastical scene – the dance of the Mouse King from the Nutcracker – that was rendered in humorous rather than violent format.

Clearcast, the non-government organisation that approves most broadcast advertising, endorsed Diageo’s claims.

The ASA then ruled in favour of Diageo, adding: “We considered that viewers would understand that the ads were a fictional and stylised retelling of a popular Christmas ballet, and would understand the dancing featured, including the choreographed confrontational movements between the main characters and the final pirouette, to be a visual expression of the story, as opposed to a realistic depiction of violent or aggressive behaviour.

“We therefore concluded that the ads were not in breach of the Code.”

The Baileys ad opens with a trio of women arriving at a party and receiving a glass of Baileys. One makes eye contact with a man across the room and they dance ballet-style in a retelling of the famous scene from The Nutcracker where Clara rescues the nutcracker from the mouse king.

A rival man gets involved and they have a confrontational dance off for the woman’s affections, but it ends with the woman pirouetting, kicking the rival in the face, shrugging to her original suitor and leaving the dance floor to rejoin her friends.

Text then appears stating: “Spend time with the girls this Christmas”.

Complainants wanted the ad to be banned for linking alcohol with violent behaviour.

But Diageo said it simply wanted to “show the ultimate girls' night out in a modern, fantastical way”. It added that the dance and the drinking were not linked, the ad was heavily stylised and choreographed and that the pirouette was was neither violent nor aggressive, but instead simply a dance move.

The ASA said: “We considered from the outset the ads were clearly fantastical and highly stylised.

“We noted the costumes, the opulent setting and the fact the narrative was communicated almost entirely through the medium of dance.

“We also considered that whilst the characters' movements changed, becoming less fluid and more dramatic as the music sped up and the second male character entered the dance floor, the movement was still obviously identifiable as choreographed dance.

“Similarly, we considered that the reaction of the other guests around the dance floor when the female lead appeared to strike the male, and the manner in which she returned to her friends, suggested that the male character had not been injured, and emphasised the stylised and light-hearted nature of the ads.”

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