From ad to worse

Related tags Smirnoff ice Advertising Diageo

Ben McFarland looks at what happens when the marketers get it wrong.The drinks industry's advertising is probably the best advertising in the world....

Ben McFarland looks at what happens when the marketers get it wrong.

The drinks industry's advertising is probably the best advertising in the world. Whether it's following the bear or refreshing parts that other adverts can't reach, drinks brands can lay claim to some of the most unforgettable slogans around.

However, things don't always go to plan and there have been a number of marketing initiatives that have spectacularly backfired, leaving the otherwise slick advertising gurus with egg on their face.

Smirnoff Ice and Strongbow were recently forced to mobilise their PR departments after ill-thought-out and badly-received marketing ideas.

Few at Diageo could have predicted the consequences of a relatively innocuous advert for Smirnoff Ice, run as part of its pre-Christmas London Underground campaign.

The poster in question showed a Christmas present with the label saying, "Warning. This gift will break down on Christmas morning. Replacement parts available from Taiwan, allow three hundred and sixty-five days for delivery."

While the ad received wry grins in the UK, the smiles were upside down in Taiwan where there was an immediate call for a boycott of not just Smirnoff, but all Diageo products.

Cue furious back-pedalling in London where Diageo immediately took down all the incriminating posters, apologised profusely and promised to replace them with new advertisements singing the praises of Taiwan's industries. At the time of writing, the Taiwan authorities were still exploring whether a one-year ban on all Diageo products would breach world trade regulations.

Another drinks giant, Pepsi, also had a slip-up in Taiwan when it emerged that the translation of its slogan: "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" came out as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead."

Not content with getting on the wrong side of the Taiwanese, last year Diageo ruffled feathers closer to home as part of Guinness's St Patrick's Day marketing campaign.

Posters featuring pairs of green feet marked with the letters "L" and "R" on the wrong feet angered members of the Irish World Heritage centre in Manchester and led to a brief boycott. Chairman Michael Forde accused the stout of "pandering to the thick Paddy image propagated by second rate comedians in the 1990s".

Guinness claimed the feet were intended to be used as an outline for an irish jig, apologised for any offence caused and, with sense prevailing, refused to withdraw the campaign.

Bulmers is another company all too aware of the consequences when "humour" doesn't travel particularly well. Last month, the Hereford-based cider maker was left to pick up the pieces after a colleague in the US scored a spectacular marketing own-goal.

A Stateside dripmat campaign for Strongbow with the strapline "Strongbow - helping fuel soccer riots for almost 40 years", went down like a French kiss at a family reunion in the UK.

One of the most unlikely pub companies to fall foul of the disastrous foot-and-mouth crisis of 2001 was the city centre chain Brannigans, famed for its "eating, dancing and cavorting" slogan.

Owner Mustard Entertainment unveiled Firewall, a new "sizzle and grill" restaurant concept, just as news broke of the foot-and-mouth outbreak and it proved to be a rather unfortunate coincidence.

The Firewall logo, which featured cartoon faces of a pig, cow and chicken with flames coming out of their heads, adorned all the 14 Brannigans sites and merely acted as a horrible reminder of the thousands of animals that were being burnt at the time.

Mustard initially stuck to its guns but (as the crisis worsened) eventually decided to withdraw the logo.

Another brand that maybe should have heeded the advice of actors and not worked with animals is WKD.

Two years ago, owner Beverage Brands found itself in hot water with the RSPCA after unveiling a poster campaign that featured an image of a sheep wearing a leather face mask, a leather suspender belt, fishnet stockings, a studded dog collar, stilettos, two rings in its right ear and a nose ring. The bottom of the poster had a close up of a card with "Happy Birthday! From all the Lads," written on it.

The RSPCA objected that the advertisement would encourage irresponsible behaviour towards animals but the Advertising Standards Authority disagreed and argued that the poster "was unlikely to encourage individuals to carry out such practices on living animals".

Related topics Marketing

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