Red Bull has refused to pull a cartoon ad featuring the RMS Titanic that the chair of the ship's heritage trust says is 'despicable', arguing that the tragedy was 'so great that it has now made its way into our language' and stressing the irony of its advertisement.
On Tuesday numerous UK newspapers reported that the television advert - suggesting that the Titanic’s passengers could have survived if they drank Red Bull - led to 100+ complaints to the nation’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
As of today there are around 147.
The complaints – from the Titanic Heritage Trust and relatives of those who traveled on the ship – meant that the ASA had to decide if the ad breached its Committee of Advertising Practise (CAP) code, but today the authority told BeverageDaily.com that "having carefully investigated complaints" it decided not to take action.
"Although the ad would be distasteful to some, it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offense or be generally seen as making light of the lives that were lost in the disaster," the ASA said.
'Despicable' way to promote a product
Howard Nelson, founder and chairman of the Titanic Heritage Trust, stressed his disappointment with the ASA decision, and left the following comment on this website yesterday: "This commercial has used a tragic event where over 1500 men, women and children lost their lives and used it to promote its product in a despicable way, it is in very bad taste.
"It is shows gross disrespect to the memory of all those whose lives have been touched by Titanic and have since been lost to us. Time has no bearing on this subject if so then all tragic events where there was just a single loss of life would be fare game for exploitation," he added.
But in a statement sent to BeverageDaily.com Red Bull insisted that the advert was not being pulled.
"The tragedy of the Titanic was so great that it has now made its way into our language. When people say that something is ‘like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ they are not making little of those who lost their lives in 1912," the brand said.
"When we say that ‘Nero fiddled while Rome burned’ we are not making little of those who died in 64 AD. Our ironic advertisement points to an arrogant ship’s captain who thought he knew everything, not the passengers who suffered," it added.
'On my ship we only have Champagne'
The cartoon-style advert (which you can watch below) shows a crate of Red Bull being hoisted onto the ship – identified as The Titanic, which leads to this dialogue.
CAPTAIN: “What on earth is that?
DOCKER: “It’s Red Bull, the energy drink.
CAPTAIN: “No, no, no. Take it down immediately. On my ship we only have Champagne.”
DOCKER: “Yes, but Red Bull gives you wings.”
CAPTAIN: “Wings? Why on earth would you need wings on a ship? Stupidest thing I ever heard!
Comments on YouTube range from the mild – “Oh chill out guys, it was 100 years ago” – to the furious: “No respect for nobody, not even the victims of this terrible accident!”
What do you think? Has Red Bull overstepped the bounds of decency here?
The controversial advert in full...