Sidemen has XIX Vodka advert banned by watchdog as it breaches advertising code

Sidemen has XIX Vodka advert banned by watchdog as it breaches advertising code
INSIDE by Sidemen trailer
INSIDE by Sidemen

YouTube supergroup the Sidemen has had an advert for their own-brand alcoholic drink, XIX Vodka, banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), after the watchdog found a ‘Sidemen Sunday’ video from October 2023 containing an ad for the beverage brand was not “obviously identifiable as marketing communications”.

Around 16 minutes into the video, titled “KSI and W2S Control the Sidemen for a Day”, the main video cut away to a black-and-white clip – narrated by member JJ “KSI” Olatunji – showing a 1.5 litre bottle of their original flavour and priced at £69.99.

“That’s right, we’re dropping the maggy,” Olatunji can be heard saying in the ad, since removed from the 90-minute video.

However, after two individuals complained to the regulator and questioned whether the short clip was “likely to appeal particularly to people aged under 18” and has been “directed at 18s”, the ASA decided to investigate – and also looked into whether it was “obviously identifiable” as an ad.

In guidance for influencers published by the Competition and Markets Authority and the Committee of Advertising Practice (who draw up the advertising code the ASA enforces) back in March 2023, creators are advised to use labels such as ‘Ad’ or ‘Advert’ to make it clear the content in question is marketing material.

“The easiest way to ensure that content makes clear when it’s advertising is to include a clear and prominent ‘Ad’ label upfront before people view the rest of the content – this might mean at the start of the post text, in a title or thumbnail, or on an image – whatever people see first,” it states.


JUST DROPPED…THE MAGGY 🤏 XIX just got bigger 😮 Head over to XIXvodka.com for more information 🫡

While the ASA concluded the advert “could have some appeal” to under-18s, but was “unlikely to appeal particularly to them” and was not “directed” at them (given the “wider context” of the video and the channel has fewer than 25 per cent of underage viewers), they did uphold the concern around appropriate labelling.

On this particular point, the Sidemen responded to the ASA by saying the ad was “segmented” from the main video by an ad “break” – akin to those seen on TV programmes and other videos on YouTube.

The ruling reads: “They highlighted that a banner first appeared which separated it from the main video content, and that the words ‘XIX’ and ‘Sidemen’ appeared together, which they said were brand names and registered trademarks of the Sidemen and so they believed it was clear from the context that XIX Vodka was associated with the Sidemen.

“They also highlighted that the banner appeared at the end of the ad segment before returning to the main video. They stated that the ad was in a different style and context to the rest of the video content as it was in black and white, and that the ad focused only on the product being promoted.

“The Sidemen said the ad used language to describe the characteristics of the product, such as the size and price, and that the claim ‘we’re dropping the maggy’ indicated it was an ad and that it was a product associated with the Sidemen.”

Despite this, the Sidemen nonetheless removed the ad completely from the October video and stressed they “wanted to work cooperatively” with the watchdog.

However, while the ASA “welcomed” the ad’s removal from the video, it still concluded that the content did not make it “sufficiently clear” its “commercial intent” and that the video was for a Sidemen product, meaning it breached the CAP code.

The ASA writes: “We acknowledged that at the time the ad appeared, the link took users to a website where the product could not currently be bought. However, the website allowed users to input their email address in order to be notified when the product was available to purchase and to enter a draw to buy a bottle of XIX Vodka.

“Because the post was in non-paid for space under the Sidemen’s control, and because it was intended to promote their vodka brand, we therefore concluded it was an ad for the purposes of the Code.”

It also noted that although it was separated from the main video with a title card, this was “only visible for a short period of time” and so it was “not obvious the ad was distinct from the main video” and that there is a commercial relationship between the Sidemen group and XIX vodka.

It continues: “Whilst we considered that some of the Sidemen’s followers would be aware that XIX Vodka was their own brand, it was not immediately clear from the ad that they were promoting their own commercial venture. There was also nothing in the content, either in the video itself, or in the caption, such as ‘#ad’ placed upfront to indicate to viewers it was a marketing communication.”

As a result of the ad being found in breach, the ASA said it could no longer appear in its current form.

“We told XIX Vodka Ltd and Sidemen Entertainment Ltd t/a the Sidemen to ensure that their ads were obviously identifiable as such, for example by including a clear and prominent identifier, such as ‘ad’,” it concluded.

The seven-person group is made up of Olatunji, Simon “Miniminter” Minter, Tobi “TBJZL” Brown, Harry “Wroetoshaw” Lewis, Vikram “Vikkstar123” Barn, Ethan “Behzinga” Payne and Josh “Zerkaa” Bradley.

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