A glass of Christmas cheer with that ad?

New Gin commercial may run afoul of CRTC’s guidelines, argues Gary Goodwin

Gary Goodwin

By now a lot of you will have seen the new ad for Aviation American Gin, which actor Ryan Reynolds owns a stake in and promotes. This ad was in apparent response to the Peloton Bike ad. If you have not seen either ad, check them out first, then come right back. Start with the stationary bicycle, end with the gin ad.

There is so much going on here. Giving your spouse an exercise bike for Christmas ranks up there with giving a vacuum cleaner. One time I did give my wife a gas-powered chipper/shredder for her birthday. But she is an avid gardener, and she specifically requested it. And she specifically requested that I operate it. It’s not Fargo-sized, so I wasn’t concerned there.

Full disclosure: I am a big Ryan Reynolds fan. I am sure I have seen Green Lantern more times than Ryan has. Deadpool would be my favorite Christmas movie if it had anything to do with Christmas.

Anyway, getting back to the gin ad, we see the same woman from the Peloton bike ad sitting at a bar with two married girlfriends. She appears to be in some sort of a daze as she stares into the camera. This must, in theory, be a year later, since it is Christmastime once again. Fuzzy tree in the background is accompanied by tinny Christmas sounds.

She manages to down a gin martini in one long continuous draw as she toasts to new beginnings. Her friends seen somewhat concerned, but they still slide over another martini. This is somewhat humorous, but this could be seen as enabling. (When we speak of enabling, this always has a negative connotation.)

Of course being lawyers, we like to take the fun out of everything. Some people suggest the term ‘eviscerate’ as being more appropriate, but they are being overly dramatic.

I could not remember the last time I actually saw someone drink alcohol in an ad. True, the Aviation American Gin ad was on Instagram, but still, there are undoubtedly some guidelines here. So, speaking of fun evisceration, I came across the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s Code for broadcast advertising of alcoholic beverages. After a glass of wine.

Social morals seems to swirl around a bit, but the code dates back to Aug. 1, 1996 and may be in need of a refresh. (At least the World Wide Web had been around for five years when the Code was established.)

The Code starts off well enough by declaring that commercial messages for alcoholic beverages shall not “attempt to establish the product as a status symbol, a necessity for the enjoyment of life or an escape from life’s problems.” Near the end of the gin commercial we see that Peloton Wife does not appear to be wearing a wedding ring, suggesting that her marriage to her husband is over. She seems to be turning to alcohol to dull that experience and to escape the reality of her situation. This scene appears to contravene the Code.

The Code then states that messages shall not “portray any such product, or its consumption, in an immoderate way,” nor “urgency of need or urgency of use.” Downing a martini in one go most likely qualifies as such, along with the woman’s friend passing over another martini. Even as Peloton Wife relates that “this gin is really smooth.”

Perhaps the section of the Code that is breached most convincingly here is the one that stipulates messages should not “contain scenes in which any such product is consumed, or that give the impression, visually or in sound, that it is being or has been consumed.” In this ad we have two actresses pictured sipping gin martinis while the third downs hers in one go.

For the purposes of pure research I looked over other liquor ads on Instagram. I didn’t come across any free coupon advertising, but otherwise it was very instructive. The Jack Daniel’s ad likely has the highest visibility, with the most “influencers.” I had to look this up since I didn’t know that was a thing. “Influencers” are evidently users that employ your brand hashtag and who have very high numbers of followers.

In the Jack Daniel’s ads there are no real dramatic moments, and in only one instance does somebody have a glass travelling toward their mouth. We would assume that it would bounce harmlessly off of their closed lips, since everyone else is evidently completing abstaining and holding glasses of ice to heal their hand after turning the fire log.

Even more instructive is that other liquor manufacturers all use the “Please drink responsibly” admonition at the ends of their ads. The Aviation American Gin ad does not see the need to include that. And you can’t blame them, since a disclaimer like that would be in harsh juxtaposition to what the ad is portraying.

I would suggest watching the two ads in quick sequence before they are removed. After all, a naughty/nice list of code violations may be compiled soon.

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