Macallan ad banned for promoting “daring behaviour”

The Macallan’s first global advertising campaign has been banned by The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for promoting “extreme risk-taking behaviour”.

The global campaign was launched in December last year but the ASA received six complaints about the ads potentially linking alcohol with daring, toughness or irresponsible behaviour.

The adverts, which ran on TV, video on demand (VOD) and Instagram, featured a man leaping off a cliff and tumbling towards the ground. As he fell, feathers started sprouting out of his arms and he began to grow wings. On-screen text stated “Would you risk falling…. for a chance to fly?” The advert later showed the man flying upwards once his wings were fully-grown. An end-frame featured the text stating “The Macallan. Make the call”, which was accompanied by an image of the whisky product in the glass.

The ASA said that while it noted some elements of the ad were fantastical, “we considered, nevertheless, that the central message of the ad, which was explicitly highlighted through the tagline, was one of promoting risky or daring behaviour to reap possible rewards. Although the character was not seen consuming alcohol at any point, we considered the ads made a clear association between an alcoholic product and potentially very dangerous, daring behaviour, and concluded that they were irresponsible”.

Edrington Distillers, the producer of The Macallen, explained that the line ‘MakeThe Call’ was used globally to describe the brand’s philosophy and it was used in relation to the decisions that the brand had made in its own history, and was also relevant to the audience’s decisions made in their own lives.

The company said it did not believe the ads were irresponsible, or linked alcohol to bravery, daring or toughness and pointed out “the ads did not show anyone consuming alcohol”.

It also said the fantastical winged man featured in the ads was not seen to undertake risky behaviour, or to be more adept at doing so, because he had been drinking. And he was also not seen being rewarded by any alcohol after his feat. It said: “The story was simply a metaphor about making decisions.”

Edrington said it had worked closely with the relevant bodies including ITV and Instagram, who had deemed the campaign to be acceptable.

In light of the new ASA ruling the company has removed the campaign from channels accessible by the UK audience and said it would take on board the ruling as it plans for the next phase of the campaign. 

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