ASA raps drinks industry over under-age ad breach

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has fired a warning shot across the bows of the alcohol industry after ruling that two campaigns promoting alcoholic drinks can never be shown again because they appealed to under-age drinkers.

The ASA has ruled that campaigns for Diageo-owned Smirnoff Ice and WKD, the flavoured alcoholic beverage owned by Beverage Brands, both breached rules on alcohol advertising on television, which came into force on January 1, 2005.

Diageo has been told it is not allowed to use its Uri and Gorb characters – two chilled-out Eastern European men – as they appeal too much to under-age drinkers. It is appealing against the decision.

Diageo Great Britain marketing director Philip Almond says: “If this were applied across all alcoholic drinks advertising, it would have a significant impact.”

Beverage Brands was rapped for two ads for WKD. The ASA ruled that both had used juvenile humour and “employed themes that are either associated with youth culture or likely to appeal strongly to adolescents”.

The Broadcast Committee on Advertising Practice, the ad industry body responsible for creating the code of practice and monitoring potential infringement, referred both campaigns to the ASA.

Diageo is planning to refer the ruling to independent reviewer Sir John Caines. Almond says: “We think the judgment is wrong. We went through all the hoops including pre-clearance from all the authorities.”

He adds that the Uri and Gorb campaign finished last December in the UK and there are no plans to revive it.

The ruling applies to TV ads only, but industry insiders believe that the regulator would almost certainly ban the characters’ use in any other form of marketing which it has jurisdiction over, including radio, press and poster ads, sales promotion and direct marketing.

Diageo recently moved the Smirnoff Ice account out of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which created the ad, into JWT. Almond says the decision has nothing to do with the ASA investigation.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here