VIP’s effort to ‘tone down’ ad backfires

E-cigarette brand VIP’s efforts to “tone down” its advertising appear to have backfired after its latest TV ad was banned from appearing before 9pm, with the advertising watchdog deeming it too “sexual” for younger viewers. 

Video: VIP TV ad

VIP marked its return to television advertising in May this year after its previous spot, which aired in 2013, racked up 1,156 complaints

The ad, which featured the line “Put it in my mouth. I want to see how great it tatstes”, was criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for its “sexually provocative presentation”, which ruled it should not be shown again after 11pm.

In launching its latest TV campaign, VIP co-founder Dave Levin, said: “While the first ad was successful in that it raised a huge amount of awareness for us, we are all about taste, so we recognised the need to respond to the complaints with our new creative output.”

The new advert featured the same female model talking to the camera as the previous spot, but with a different script that VIP claimed was less overtly sexual.

Instead the woman said, as she ran her hand over her thigh: “You know that feeling you get when something’s great? You can touch it, hold it, even see it. Well now you can taste it.”

The updated ad sparked 86 complaints, with many challenging whether the ad was suitable for broadcast before 9pm. It had been given an “ex-kids” restriction by broadcast clearing body Clearcast.

The ASA said it was “concerned” that the degree of sexuality in the ad, while not overt, was unsuitable for older children, as well as younger children. It ruled that the ad must not be broadcast again in its current form before 9pm to minimise the risk of children seeing it.

A VIP spokeswoman said in a statement: ”We have responded to the feedback on our last advertising campaign, by toning down our ads and targeting the post-watershed audience with our next TV campaign. We respect the ASA’s ruling and will continue to welcome and take on board audience comments.”

The TV ad was also investigated on two separate issues – whether it was likely to offend or irresponsibly sexualise e-cigarette use and whether the claim in text reading “quality assured since 2009” could be substantiated – but these complaints were not upheld by the ad watchdog.

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