CHASING THE FREE TV SPIRIT

The ban on TV advertising for spirits comes to an end this week, but how will the drinks companies overcome heavy restrictions on the content of the ads? In search of an answer Marketing Week commissioned three agencies to devise a campaign f

The 40-year voluntary agreement banning spirits advertising on our television screens comes to an end tomorrow (Thursday, June 1). The Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre has already given United Distillers clearance to run a TV campaign for its Scotch whisky brand Bell’s through advertising agency WCRS. Rivals Allied Domecq, IDV, Westbay and Seagram are expected to follow suit with ads for some of their brands.

However, spirits advertisers considering making their TV debut will face a barrage of restrictions and all ads will have to conform to ITC rules. These include: a ban on any reference to alcohol enhancing sporting prowess or sexual attractiveness; no depictions of lone drinking or drinking in rounds; no undue emphasis on alcoholic strength; no references to driving; and no use of personalities which may appeal to under-18s. All actors in commercials must appear to be over 25. Humour is permitted but “not so as to circumvent the intention of these rules”.

Bearing these restrictions in mind Marketing Week asked three advertising agencies – Woollams Moira Gaskin O’Malley, Kelly Weedon Shute and Mellors Reay & Partners – to create a TV campaign for a fictitious bourbon brand called Mustang.

The agencies were told that the product is a mass-market US bourbon with widespread distribution in the on and off trade, simple but distinctive packaging and it can be drunk straight, with mixers, or even as a cocktail. Brand awareness is relatively high following a successful cinema campaign. It has an American image, although that is not its defining feature. The fictional client is seeking to position it as a drink for a variety of social settings, a fun brand and a bit of a “session” drink.

The aim is to target 18 to 30- year-olds and give it a young style-oriented positioning.

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