Hennessy versus Jameson

Dec 14, 2015 | 2012 - 2014, News

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently received a complaint from Société JAS Hennessy & Co (“Hennessy”) against a television commercial for Jameson Select Reserve whiskey. Hennessy claimed that the Jameson advertisement had copied its original thought, was an exploitation of its advertising goodwill, and was disparagement in terms of the ASA Code of Advertising Practice.

The Hennessy “Never Stop Never Settle” television commercial unfolded as follows: The opening scene is of the city at night. A “handsome, successful, black male” who’s wearing a suit is sitting in the back seat of a black, luxury German car with a woman wearing a white dress sitting next to him. They arrive at an awards ceremony and there are camera flashes as he steps onto a red carpet and subsequently receives an award on stage. Later, at a rooftop party, he enters the party scene and drinks a glass of Hennessy and a voice-over says “When will I stop? Once the world has heard me. When everyone knows my name. Or when I’ve opened more doors for others. I’ll never stop when there is still so much to do. Hennessy… Never stop. Never settle“.

The subsequent Jameson television advertisement also opened with a city scene at night with a “handsome, successful, black male”. Initially he is walking away from a plane towards a black, luxury German car and then is shown wearing a suit sitting in the back seat of the car. He then arrives with camera flashes at an awards ceremony and also receives an award on stage and subsequently celebrates by drinking what we assume is Jameson whiskey from a glass tumbler. The curtain then drops and it is revealed that this is on a film set. His award is taken away and the girlfriend walks away with another man. The voice-over then says: “Look at this guy pretending to be successful. Come on, we all know he’s acting. He’s pretending to be a businessman, pretending to arrive, and win an award. But that’s real whiskey, you can’t pretend to drink that. Take away his pretend award, car, and girlfriend. What does he have left? Character, real character – that’s what”.

The ASA disagreed with Hennessy and was not persuaded that there was any advertising goodwill or that the storyline in the Hennessy advertisement was its ‘signature’ as there was nothing distinctive about it and was a fairly common theme used for luxury goods advertising. Examples of advertisements where the brand has acquired advertising goodwill are the Savanna commercials with Barry Hilton and the Castle Lite Beer ads with the “ice” theme. There was also nothing in the Jameson ad that suggested that the Hennessy product was inferior in any way.

Accordingly, the ASA dismissed Hennessy’s complaint.