Boss of alcohol delivery firm Drink Doctor is told to change its image because the fake ambulance, flashing light and First Aid symbol are too much like a real medic
By Lucy Crossley
October 1, 2015
UNITED KINGDOM – The boss of an alcohol delivery firm named ‘Drink Doctor’ has been ordered to change its image by advertising watchdogs who claimed he looked too much like a real medic.
Jay Browne, 44, decked out his white Landrover Discovery with a flashing light, heart rate flat line and even a First Aid-like symbol to jokingly portray his firm as a rescue service for late night drinkers.
His tongue-in-cheek vehicle, named ‘Boozebulance’, also included the 999 in his mobile and landline phone numbers being highlighted in red.
But it attracted a complaint that using medical terms and imagery to promote an alcohol delivery service was ‘inappropriate and irresponsible’, sparking an inquiry at the Advertising Standards Agency.
Now the ASA has ordered Mr Browne to change the look of his van, claiming that although people would not think that he was offering genuine medical assistance, he was ‘conflating the role of a medical professional with the provision of alcohol.’
It also condemned the Drink Doctor Facebook page, which featured a busty nurse in a skimpy uniform and said the branding inferred alcohol was ‘necessary and indispensable’ and provided ‘therapeutic qualities.’
Father-of-one Mr Browne from Chorlton, Manchester who runs the Drink Doctor business with his girlfriend has now set up an e-petition calling for the decision to be overturned.
‘The Boozebulance was supposed to be funny,’ he said. ‘It was just done in a jokey way. We put pictures on Twitter and it was one of those things that got us coverage and people really liked it and were laughing.
‘The ASA were asking why we highlighted the numbers 999. I said it was obvious that we are playing on a theme but they said we can’t do that.
‘We put the line from a cardiogram on the side and we wanted to make it look like an ambulance but it’s not supposed to look so much like an ambulance that if there’s a medical emergency people are going to come running. People didn’t go in to Damien Hirst’s Pharmacy exhibition and ask for a prescription. It’s all just a play on a theme.
‘The ASA are saying they have to take every complaint seriously but I don’t think you can take this seriously. Take the image of the nurse we had on our Facebook: it was an image of a stripper in a rubber nurse outfit. It was hardly somebody you would want to see if you had a banging migraine.
‘What about businesses like Rug Doctor or the Food Doctor? Does anyone actually think they are doctors? It’s all jovial but the ASA do have the power to stop us using it. We actually send out leaflets to those who we suspect are alcoholics.
‘I really don’t want to lose the Drink Doctor name. People like the name, and if we have to get rid of the Boozebulance it would be massive. It’s pathetic really – if you look at it, it clearly says 24 hour alcohol delivery on the side and there’s no reference to medical services.
‘The cross is made out of bottles of Jack Daniel’s and Grey Goose, it’s hardly the Red Cross. The the time and expense needed to change the trademarked ‘Drink Doctor’ name could lose me thousands and put me out of business. The name is currently on bank accounts and all marketing material.’
Mr Browne set up his company nine years ago to cater for revellers in Manchester who still want to drink after shops and supermarkets have closed. The company delivers beer, spirits, wine and shots each weekend until 7am and is contacted via two telephone lines both featuring the numbers ‘999’, which were highlighted on adverts.
As the business went from strength to strength, Mr Browne invested in a bespoke 4×4 delivery vehicle to suit the tongue-in-cheek company name – and called it the ‘Boozebulance’.
Since it began late-night rounds last year, the Boozebulance – which features an electrocardiogram ‘go faster’ stripe, a mock siren and a play on a First Aid cross – has attracted compliments from customers and helped the business build a loyal following.
But it attracted a single complaint which read: ‘The use of medical terms and imagery to promote an alcohol delivery service was inappropriate.’
During the investigation Mr Browne claimed he handed out their own NHS leaflets to customers who are drinking too regularly and refuse to serve those who are too drunk.
He also argued he ran the business professionally while claiming competitors offer illegal substances for sale. He said the word ‘Doctor’ was incorporated into other brands’ names to promote a professional and caring image, rather than trying to imply medical knowledge.
It its ruling The ASA said: ‘Consumers would understand that the service offered was for alcohol delivery and that the advertiser was not offering genuine medical assistance.
‘However, we considered that these references presented alcohol as a product to be used in the same manner, and provided for the same reasons, as medical treatment and that they therefore drew a link between the provision of alcohol and the provision of medical assistance.
‘We also considered that the name ‘Drink Doctor’ in itself contained the same implication by conflating the role of a medical professional with the provision of alcohol.
‘Marketing communications should not imply that alcohol has therapeutic qualities, and we considered that the use of medical imagery to market an alcohol delivery service carried such an implication. We also considered that the image of the ‘boozebulance’ vehicle and the emphasised ‘999’ digits, in particular, carried the added implication of emergency assistance, and that alcohol was therefore something that was necessary and indispensable.’
‘The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Drink Doctor to ensure that future advertising did not contain medical imagery or terminology, including ‘boozebulance,’ an emphasis on ‘999’ and ‘Drink Doctor’, and that it did not imply that alcohol was indispensable or had therapeutic qualities.’