Tuesday 23 January 2018

Conor's notorious ad whips up a storm

Mixed martial arts hero Conor McGregor appearing in the advert for Budweiser
Mixed martial arts hero Conor McGregor appearing in the advert for Budweiser
Carat’s Eimear O’Farrell and Eimear McCabe at the AIM awards
Expanding Liffey Valley looks at PR contenders

Michael Cullen

The Budweiser 'Big Dream' ads with MMA fighter Conor McGregor caused quite a brouhaha in adland and beyond. Little wonder.

How Guinness owner Diageo - Bud's franchise holder in Ireland - could roll out ads with hero of the young McGregor on TV, billboards and print has left many people baffled. How come the powers-that-be allowed the Bud ads go ahead?

Adland is served by the Central Copy Clearance Ireland (CCCI) group, trading as CopyClear. How did beer ads, which clearly glamorise a hero of the young, so easily slip through the vetting net? The Advertising Standards Authority (ASAI) operates self-regulation for advertisers and agencies. The ASAI code says "all marketing communications should be prepared with a sense of responsibility both to the consumer and to society".

In its manual, the ASAI insists the code essence should apply in spirit as well in letter. Beer ads should "not exploit the young or the immature". The ASAI calls on brand owners to take account of the age profile because alcohol ads are communicated, so far as is possible, to adults. Aspects of youth culture "likely to appeal to children" should not be employed.

Like Guinness, the code is there in black and white. In the 2015 CopyClear annual report, chairman Fintan Cooney admits that while clearance managers report high levels of compliance with the code on alcohol ads, there's evidence that some advertisers aren't working within "the spirit of the code" - a major concern for the CopyClear board.

Cooney, a former agency director now working with Fanagans funeral home, says the vast majority of ads (94.4pc) submitted last year complied with the ASAI code.

CopyClear recently completed a third round of client satisfaction among advertisers. While the response rate was poor, 86pc of respondents saw the service as being "good or excellent".

However, the unease caused by the Bud ads with McGregor as hero sends out the wrong message to young people. Was the campaign authorised by Diageo or Anheuser-Busch's marketing bosses in St Louis, Missouri - or, indeed, did both parties give the go-ahead to UK agency Adam & Eve. In fairness to RTE, those responsible for screening TV commercials for the national broadcaster were adamant in refusing to air the Bud ads.

Like McGregor, the ads are notorious. They make a nonsense of Drink Aware's 'Drink responsibly' slogan and create a headache which hopefully won't have any hangover effects.

* Irish woman Aisling O'Connor has just been made series producer of 'Panorama', BBC Television's flagship current affairs and investigations series.

O'Connor was commissioning editor for daytime and early peak programming at BBC TV for over two years. She was the BBC's compliance executive for a decade and had a stint commissioning music and arts shows.

She studied media at the University of Westminster. A native of Killiney, Co Dublin, she recently addressed Leaving Cert students at her alma mater, Loreto Abbey in Dalkey. She spoke candidly about life's ups and downs and working alongside 'Weakest Link' presenter Anne Robinson, who she thinks is just as unforgiving off-camera.

O'Connor's advice for school-leavers embarking on a new life journey is to work hard, try and get on with people, be flexible and have fun.

* Arguably the most hotly contested gong at the Marketing Institute's AIM awards was for the top marketing team.

Five teams were in the running with two of last year's Marketer of the Year finalists - AIB, led by Tom Kinsella, and Heineken Ireland, headed up by Sharon Walsh - the most fancied.

When all was said and done, the Dutch brewer, whose Orchard Thieves cider launch was the toast of the drinks industry last year, won out.

If there were awards for the best dressed lady, it would be impossible to ignore Mediaworks' Fiona Field and Margaret Colton of Dunnes Stores, who looked resplendent in wine and cerise pink respectively.

But the night's grand prix in the gúna glamour stakes goes to Carat duo Eimear O'Farrell and Eimear McCabe.

* Speaking of Carat, the Dentsu Aegis Network agency is defending its Dunnes Stores business. Also competing for the iconic Irish retailer are GroupM's Maxus and Omnicom's PHD. Elsewhere on the media buying front, a decision is due soon on the SuperValu review. Mindshare, Vizeum and the incumbent Starcom are in the running.

* On the PR front, Liffey Valley Shopping Centre's owners has seen agencies PR360, PSG and Revolve. The centre is undergoing a €26m expansion with the country's second biggest Penneys store due to open later this year. The expansion also includes six restaurants over three floors, an Olympic size ice rink and a new Vue multiplex cinema.

* WHPR has won the Etihad Airways account previously handled by Malachi Quinn's MQ2 Communications. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) national carrier first landed in Ireland in 2007. The airline sponsors the GAA All Ireland Hurling Championship and Manchester City FC.

Michael Cullen is editor of Marketing.ie: cullen@marketing.ie

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