Advertising watchdog bans vodka adverts

The ASA has banned three adverts from Pure Milk Vodka

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned three advertisements from vodka producer Pure Milk Vodka, for promoting excessive drinking and linking alcohol to sex.

The adverts for its Black Cow milk vodka included a cartoon that appeared in publication The Week and two videos uploaded to the Black Cow website.

The press advert featured a cartoon of a cow driving a sleigh and delivering gifts of Black Cow vodka, with a caption that said: “Black Cow pure milk vodka. So smooth you can drink it until the cows come home.”

A complainant accused the advert of promoting excessive drinking and that being a cartoon meant it was likely to appeal to children.

Pure Milk Vodka said its vodka was a “super-premium product” and the advert depicted the drink being given as a gift for a special occasion, not excessively drunk.

It also claimed the advert was in the style of The Week’s satirical cartoons and was not designed to appeal to children.

The ASA agreed that the advert was unlikely to appeal to children, as it was in a style of a black-and-white comic strip designed for an adult audience.

Socially irresponsible

However, it said the caption “so smooth you can drink it until the cows come home” could refer to prolonged drinking and that the smoothness meant consumers could drink more of it. The ASA deemed the advert socially irresponsible.  

Another member of the public logged a separate complaint for a video advert that appeared on Black Cow’s website.

The video – titled New Black Cow film from Jake Scott – depicted a man and a woman slowly walking through a meadow together and glancing at each other. It then cut to a depression in some long grass, with the text Black Cow milk vodka superimposed over it.

The complainant said the advert linked drinking alcohol with sexual activity. Pure Milk Vodka denied this claim, as it did not feature any sexual activity and instead depicted a walk through the Dorset countryside.

The ASA ruled that the tone of the advert, the couple’s body language and the depression in the grass implied that they just had sex. Because the advert strongly implied sexual activity had taken place and featured an alcoholic product, the ASA ruled that it breached the CAP Code.

Excessive drinking

The final complaint was made by the ASA itself, which deemed another video advert on Black Cow’s website had promoted excessive drinking.

The video was a parody of a milk advert from 1989, in which two boys come into a house after playing football looking for a drink. The boys settle on glasses of milk, after one comments that if he doesn’t drink milk he’ll only be good enough to play football for Accrington Stanley.

The video was a shot for shot recreation of the advert, except the milk was replaced with vodka and a milkman delivering three bottles of the drink at the end of the video.

Pure Milk Vodka defended the advert, stating the satirical nature of the video. It said the advert should be viewed in the context of the premium nature of the product, which was not intended to be bought or consumed in excessive amounts.

While the ASA acknowledged the advert was a parody, it still depicted a large quantity of alcohol. The advert showed empty bottles being replaced by full ones, which was likely to be understood as implying and encouraging excessive drinking.

The ASA ruled that all three adverts must not appear in their existing forms. Pure Milk Vodka was told not to produce adverts that encouraged excessive drinking and linked alcohol to sexual activity. 

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