The Guardian is reporting that British Advertising Standards Authority has decided not to investigate the ad. “Although the ad would be distasteful to some, it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence or be generally seen as making light of the lives that were lost in the disaster,” said the ASA. Howard Nelson of Titanic Heritage Trust said he was deeply disappointed in the decision.
The ASA got it right. It is distasteful for some but not for everyone. If someone were game, I would consider a parody Red Bull advert showing Red Bull crates floating in the water being smashed by some large, unnamed ship that looks like it might be Titanic. 🙂
The Guardian is reporting that UK Advertising Standards Authority(ASA) has received 110 complaints regarding a recent advert for Red Bull energy drink. One complaint is from the Titanic Heritage Trust. “”Red Bull is using a tragic event to promote and sell its products without care for the people that were lost,” states Howard Nelson who founded the trust. The advert features a crate containing Red Bull being raised for loading onto a ship. Phillip Littlejohn (a descendent of Titanic survivor Alexander James Littlejohn )states he wants the ad banned.
Trying to get government to shut it down is not the way to go here. You shame them in public and get lots of people to send emails, letters, and even protest outside their offices about the ad. Getting government to shut down the ad smacks of something else, namely censorship. Free speech means just that: you can say dumb things and others have the exact same right to call you nuts for it. Red Bull did not make a patently false claim about their product. Much has been said of the use of their advertising slogan “Red Bull gives you wings” aspect. The cartoon Captain Smith scoffs at the need for wings on his ship. Yet we all know that wings in this sense is not avian wings, but more of the effects of Red Bull on your system. Energy drinks are supposed to lift you up and get you going.
At the same time, when connected to Titanic and its well known story, it does seem to imply it might have an effect. What kind of an effect is never stated. Now if a advert for a helicopter were used to show how they could have saved more lives in 1912, that would make sense (although implausible since that technology did not exist then). It is possible some are filling in what they think the ad is saying rather than what it is not. Does it insult the memory of Titanic? Consider the many Titanic themed t-shirts out there. Some, noted in this blog, have Titanic Swim Team or “Don’t Worry! There is plenty of water for all” emblazoned on them Now those I find more offensive since they trivialize a terrible event where people died.
Red Bull’s strategy to use humor is always a risky move when it comes to historical events or people. For Red Bull it comes down to a simple answer: did it generate more or less sales? If the ad generated controversy and talk but flat sales, then expect the ad to end after its natural course and never be seen again. On the other hand, if people were amused rather than appalled, then perhaps more of these will be coming down the line. Imagine the possibilities. Julius Caesar offered Red Bull before his fateful encounter and laughing the need for wings. Or General Custer being offered a canteen of Red Bull before his infamous battle at Little Big Horn.
Red Bull advertising executives thought they had a clever idea. They created an advertising cartoon which showed a crate containing Red Bull being being loaded on a ship. The captain walks by and asks what it contains. When he learns it is an energy drink, he is insulted pointing out they only drink champagne on his ship and orders it brought down. The deckhand says the drink gives you wings (an advertising slogan of the drink). The captain responds by saying there is no need for wings on a ship, And then the crate reveals the name of the ship–Titanic–as the captain walks away.
According to The Telegraph:
The ad has also outraged some of the relatives of the 1915 disaster which saw more than 1,500 lose their lives when the ‘unsinkable’ ship hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Clifford Ismay, 57, a relative of Titanic owner Joseph Bruce Ismay, condemned the advert as “despicable.” He said: “I have a sense of humour but I really don’t like the idea – in fact I find it quite sickening considering so many people died on that night. “With their slogan ‘Red Bull gives you wings’ I can only assume that they are referring to the idea that if all those people had Red Bull – or wings – then they would have been ok. “It’s despicable. I think the Titanic, and the people involved, should be treated with dignity and respect.”
42 complaints have been lodged with Advertising Standards Authority over the ad. The Titanic Heritage Trust condemned the advert. Its founder, Howard Nelson, is considering filing a formal complaint.
Now I am no fan of tacky Titanic themed products, but this ad does not get me that angry. I understand why people are offended. On the scale of offensive, I put it in the mild category. When the deckhand says it is an energy drink, Captain Smith scoffs at serving anything less than champagne. If anything, it pokes fun at the aristocratic mentality that abounded at that time. Whether it ought to use Titanic is another issue. Then again, they had to know using Titanic was going to draw ire from some. And perhaps that is what they wanted.
I had not seen the ad, so I quickly tracked it down on YouTube. I actually watched both English and German versions. So they are getting eyes on the ad but whether it translates into sales, that is something they have to determine later. I actually thought the German version more funny than English. It is how it is said in German that makes it so. At any rate judge for yourself. The English version is below but if you want to see the German one, click here.