The tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic has been used to sell books, movies, popular music and museum exhibits for a century. But Red Bull may have crossed the line with a new ad based on the disaster that merely peddles energy drinks.
Red Bull is used to pushing the envelope in its marketing in all sorts of ways, of course, from its man-made flying machine competitions to one of the ultimate promotional stunts in the history of marketing: sponsoring Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner earlier this year as he hurtled from a balloon out of the stratosphere some 128,000 feet to the earth.
But the brand finally may have gone too far with a new TV ad in the United Kingdom that leverages the legend of the Titanic and suggests that its passengers could have survived if they had been drinking Red Bull.[more]
In the 30-second ad, after a bearded captain says he only has champagne on his ship, a docker tells him he’s loading a crate of Red Bull onto the ship because it “gives you wings.” The captain replies: “Wings? Why on earth would you need wings on a ship? Stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” Then the crate moves and reveals that the ship is actually the Titanic.
Social media complaints mounted immediately as did official protests to UK’s Advertising Standards Authority, which alone had received nearly 150 complaints as of earlier today, according to BeverageDaily.com. The protesters didn’t care that the ad was cartoonized and that the sinking occured more than a century ago.
“It … shows gross disrespect to the memory of all those whose lives have been touched by the Titanic and have since been lost to us,” the founder of the Titanic Heritage Trust said on the group’s website, according to the publication. “Time has no bearing on this subject. If so, then all tragic events where there was just a single loss of life would be [fair] game for exploitation.”
Red Bull refused to pull the advertisement and in a statement to BeverageDaily.com said: “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. 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.”