A shot from Dewar's "Meet the Baron" video.December 17, 2013 – Just a week after the Dewar’s “Meet The Baron” online video captured the attention of social media users and sparked a grassroots protest that led to the ad being pulled off the Internet, the U.S. spirits industry’s leading trade organization has ruled on a complaint over the ad. The Distilled Spirits Council’s Code Review Board reviewed the ad on Monday and ruled that it violates the body’s Code of Responsible Practices, specifically a section banning the use of sexist images or content:

Beverage alcohol advertising and marketing materials should not degrade the image, form, or status of women, men, or of any ethnic, minority, sexually-oriented, religious, or other group.

“Meet the Baron” was produced for Dewar’s by the Montreal-based Sid Lee ad agency, and shows the suave, charismatic “Baron” helping an ordinary man through a series of challenging situations, including one where a large blonde woman approaches him at a bar and a second showing the duo with a group of “Swedish bikini models.”

A shot from Dewar's "Meet the Baron" video.Canadian whisky blogger Johanne McInnis filed the complaint with DISCUS, even though Dewar’s and its parent company Bacardi removed the ad from YouTube and other web sites on Wednesday (December 11).  McInnis provided WhiskyCast with a copy of the email she received Tuesday from DISCUS staff member Lynne Omlie:

Dear Ms. McInnis:

Once again, thank you for using the Code Review Board process.  The Board convened yesterday to deliberate upon your complaint regarding the “Meet the Baron” advertisement and found that video in violation of the Responsible Content Provision No. 24 of the DISCUS Code of Responsible Practices for Beverage Alcohol Advertising and Marketing.  As you are aware, the advertiser already had removed the video from the digital medium where it was posted.  If you have any questions concerning the Code Review Board’s action and/or otherwise, please do not hesitate to call.

Best regards,

After withdrawing the video, Bacardi and Dewar’s issued a statement describing the “Baron” video as “representing a camaraderie that is important to our target consumer,” and while not apologizing for the ad, acknowledged that not everyone might agree with it. After our original story on the DISCUS Board’s ruling Wednesday evening, Dewar’s and Bacardi issued the following statement through their PR firm:

Bacardi U.S.A., Inc. is proud to be a longstanding member of Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (“DISCUS”), the self-governing body for the liquor industry that helps brands like DEWAR’S maintain responsibility in its advertising and marketing practices.  On December 16th, the DISCUS Code Review Board reviewed our DEWAR’S ‘Meet the Baron’ online video and found it to be in violation of the DISCUS Code.

We value our consumers feedback, whether it’s critical or complimentary and we consistently review feedback received from our consumers.  Due to our internal review, we had already removed ‘Meet the Baron’ from our YouTube page prior to the DISCUS Code Review Board’s decision.  While we strive to be inclusive of many demographics, we have a wide array of consumers who respond to a variety of unique and focused marketing messages, in different ways. As the world’s most awarded blended Scotch whisky, DEWAR’S embraces its responsibility to both its consumers, the DISCUS Code and to the industry.

The DISCUS Code Review Board is made up of spirits industry executives, and self-polices the industry with the backing of federal regulators. Its sanctioning authority is limited to asking that an ad be revised or withdrawn, which can cost a company tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in production costs and cancelled advertising orders. DISCUS spokesman Frank Coleman told WhiskyCast in an interview last week that the Board has had 100% compliance with rulings from the group’s member companies, with significant compliance from non-member companies. This is the board’s second ruling of the year, and the first for a whisky ad since Wild Turkey’s “Give ‘Em The Bird” ads in 2011.

Links: DISCUS | Dewar’s | Bacardi | Sid Lee