A vaping advert has been banned for using a ‘bald head and eyebrows’ that suggested Sir Mo Farah endorsed the product, a watchdog as ruled.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the model in the ad, which was seen on the side of London buses, looked ‘reminiscent’ enough of the runner to mislead viewers.
The advert showed a narrow shot of a man’s brow and eyes looking at a bottle of vaping eliquid with the strapline ‘Mo’s mad for menthol’.
The image bore enough of a likeness to Sir Mo that in March he tweeted to distance himself from the ad saying: “You may have seen this ad and think it’s me!! I can assure you that I have NOT endorsed this product or company!!!! We’re looking into it.”
Earlier this month Olympic gold-medalist launched a High Court legal action against the company behind the product, Diamond Mist Ltd, and a second company, Exertion Media, for infringement of his intellectual property.
The ASA was prompted to launch an investigation after receiving three complaints over the ad.
Diamond Mist Ltd argued that its advertising campaign had used a number of fictional personalities with names such as ‘Claire, Lucy and Wang’ to be “inclusive of all genders and ethnicities”. It also argued that the model in the disputed ad had a different skin tone to Sir Mo.
However, the ASA ruled that the model’s “bald head and eyebrow shape were reminiscent of Sir Mo’s” and that although the name Mo, as a contraction of Mohammad, was a common one, the athlete was one of the most recognisable figures in the UK going by the name.
The ASA report concluded: “Overall, we considered that the ad was likely to give consumers the misleading impression that the product had been endorsed by Sir Mo Farah.”
Following the ruling, a spokesman for Sir Mo said: “We are pleased the ASA has ruled Diamond Mist’s advert on the side of buses earlier this year to be misleading and could have led to members of the public believing Sir Mo Farah had endorsed the vaping company.
“This ruling validates our concerns and is why Mo’s legal representatives launched proceedings against the organisation a few months ago after their failure to address this issue.”