Red Bull Does Titanic–And Gets Called “Despicable”

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.

Source: Red Bull Criticised For ‘Tasteless’ Titanic Advert (13 Sep 2013, The Telegraph)

3 thoughts on “Red Bull Does Titanic–And Gets Called “Despicable””

  1. This commercial has used a tragic event where over 1500 men, women and children lost their lives and used it to promote its product in a despicable way, it is in very bad taste..
    It is shows gross disrespect to the memory of all those whose lives have been touched by Titanic and have since been lost to us.

  2. After revisiting James Cameron’s Titanic on Film 4 Sunday night I carried on watching the next film. We were into the second ad break when I was amazed to see that commercial for a well known energy drink in English using the Titanic tragedy to promote its product in a disrespectful way and have today lodged a complaint with the advertising Standards Authority.
    I’m glad someone had the good sense not to schedule the ad during the screening of Titanic, that would have been the ultimate insult.
    What do you think?

  3. I agree that using Titanic was not wise on their part. Had they used any other ship name (or not even had one at all), there would be little controversy.There are other things that make jokes of Titanic (like the Titanic Swim Team t-shirts and tacky Titanic ice cubes). Red Bull likely thought it was just good humor rather than trying to insult the memories of those who died. Another example of where sometimes what sounded funny in an office translates not so well in public.

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