Why the ASA's banning of Jaguar's Art of Villainy video should worry thrill-seeking brands

Andrew Mulholland
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Tom Hiddleston in Jaguar's Art of Villainy video on YouTube
Browsing through the papers on the weekend – all well respected broadsheets (if there is such a thing these days) – and it struck me that, as a brand manager, you may as well pack your bags and go home.
Amid headlines which shouted about a cannibal fetish nurse, was a small article which talked about Jaguar’s brilliant YouTube Art of Villainy film (you know, the one where Tom Hiddleston extols the virtues of being a bad guy), which received a complaint that it encouraged unsafe driving. So the Advertising Standards Authority banned it.
Let’s look at that again.
The YouTube film received a huge volume of hits, and from a quick trawl through the thousands of comments, it would appear most self-respecting adults with half a brain thought the same as me – that the campaign was “awesome”. But one person complained because they thought the sound of the exhaust note encouraged speed. So all that came to a screeching halt.
In which case, how can a brand possibly get cut-through in today’s media, when the sensationalist headlines get ever more attention grabbing, yet any effort to create a little marketing pizzazz gets brutally stopped if one person has the power to trigger the kill switch (by the way, what’s the betting that the person was a Porsche fan)?
Sure, some brands are able to make a virtue of kicking up a storm and revel in the ensuing controversy – back in the day Benetton did its best, and more recently Paddy Power would appear to follow the same approach with its deforestation stunt and traitor campaign, but for categories which rely on more solid drivers (no offence, Paddy), it becomes hard to take up this challenger position without eroding value.
Which is a shame, for while I believe we all need to be responsible, I would hate to see a magnolia world where advertisements can no longer move us, because in that case, the bad guys in the real world have won.
Despite the ASA ruling, Jaguar's Art of Villainy video remains available on the Jaguar USA YouTube channel.

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