Spat over spirits adverts settled

Alcoholic spirit brands Hennessy and Jameson have battled it out in the ad arena – and Jameson has won.

This follows a complaint lodged by Hennessy cognac with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) accusing the marketers of Irish whiskey Jameson of stealing its ad concept and belittling its brand.

In Hennessy’s ad a handsome, successful black man, dressed in a suit, arrives at an awards event in a German luxury car, before accepting an award and celebrating with a drink.

The ad opens with a view of a city by night and closes with a bottle of Hennessy alongside two glass tumblers and the slogan, “Never stop. Never settle.”

In Jameson’s ad for its Select Reserve whiskey the main character, in somewhat similar fashion, accepts an award at a swanky event and celebrates with a drink.

The voice-over, however, hints that the man is a fake: “Look at this guy. Who is he kidding? Come on, we all know he’s an actor. He’s pretending.”

The man’s award, luxury vehicle and girlfriend are then stripped and he is revealed to be an actor on a film set. The voice-over continues: “Take away his award, his car, his girlfriend. What does he have left? Character, that’s what.”

In its complaint Hennessy claimed that the first half of the Jameson ad was strikingly similar to its ad citing the use of a handsome, successful black man, an opening scene of a city by night, a luxury vehicle and an award ceremony as examples.

It accused Jameson of copying its “crafted and original intellectual thought” on which it had spent more than R23-million broadcasting on local television.

The cognac brand also claimed that Jameson had ridiculed the main character in its ad, implying he was a “fake”.

“This creates a negative association with Hennessy…There is also a subliminal message that only drinkers of Jameson have real character and that all other whiskey spirit drinkers are shallow,” it said.

But in its recent ruling the ASA dismissed the complaint, saying that although Hennessy had spent millions broadcasting its commercial locally, it was not the owner of the ad concept.

The ASA agreed with Jameson that the narrative in Hennessy’s ad was not a “signature” of the brand. Many other products targeting affluent consumers used the same concept.

The ASA said that although the ads had similarities, Hennessy’s ad focused on the external manifestation of success while Jameson’s ad spoke of the person’s character regardless of success.

It said Jameson had not insulted Hennessy or other whiskey brands.

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