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Diageo slapped on wrist by ASA over Captain Morgan ad

Published:  26 February, 2014

Diageo has been rapped on the knuckles for its Captain Morgan ad which "links alcohol with daring and toughness".

The Advertising Standards Authority received two complaints over the latest TV ad for the company's Captain Morgan's rum, which depicts a pirate or buccaneer - the captain - engaging in acts of derring-do.

One complaint, that the ad associated alcohol with social success, was dismissed, while the other complaint, which said it linked alcohol with violent or aggressive behaviour, was upheld.

Diageo are not permitted to use the ad again in its current form, and must refrain from making the same association in future ads, the ASA ruled.

In the ad, the captain strips off his shirt, dives into the water, has women gaze admiringly at him and leads his crew. Throughout the ad a voice-over states: "Make no mistake about that man on the bottle of Captain Morgan. That man was a legend. A hero, history remembers. A liver of life. A man who led with his heart and showed his crew a life more legendary. Captain Morgan. Live like the captain."

But Diageo said that the ad focused on bringing the story of the real Sir Henry Morgan, a genuine seventeenth-century buccaneer, to life.  Its aim was to illustrate Morgan's life in a way that would be relevant to consumers today. But Diageo added that "all scenes were highly stylised and were contextualised within the historical narrative of the advert, and were far-removed from the 'real-life' of today".

The company pointed out that the depiction of alcohol in the ad was minimal and incidental to the main narrative and that at no point during the ad were any of the characters seen consuming alcohol.

Diageo said that the ad did not depict aggressive behaviour, and that the actions on show "intentionally chosen to avoid any suggestion of daring or aggressive conduct". Rather, Diageo maintained, Morgan was shown as a leader on board his ship and in control of a horse. It considered the captain's actions to be "confident and fun" and not daring or tough.

But the ASA said that driving a carriage at speed, searching for treasure and emerging from the sea having dived from his ship, as well as the association of buccaneers and rum, and the brand's slogan, "Live like the Captain" did link alcohol with toughness and daring.