Skift Take

Damn, if the UK's Advertising Standards Authority can't take a joke … Meanwhile, Kayak's Brain Surgery ad is obviously working and that's why the company brought it back.

Kayak’s decision didn’t take brain surgery — or maybe it did.

The Connecticut-headquartered travel metasearch company has once again started airing in the U.S. its Brain Surgery advertisement (embedded below) that was banned in the U.K. starting last year.

In the ad, a surgeon conducts brain surgery on a patient and manipulates his brain so the patient taps keys on a laptop and searches various travel sites, and ultimately Kayak, for travel deals.

A nurse tells the brain surgeon, referring to what the doctor is doing with the patient, “This is completely unethical,” and the brain surgeon replies, “My hours are unethical.”

In late 2012, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority banned future broadcasts of the ad in the UK after receiving 441 complaints about it, with many coming from patients and families touched by brain surgery and brain disorders.

In its decision, the UK advertising regulator wrote:

“We considered the ad’s flippant treatment of a serious and recognisably real situation was likely to cause distress and serious offence to those viewers who had been affected by the type of operation depicted in the ad. We considered the ad was likely to cause distress without justifiable reason and serious offence to some viewers and therefore concluded it breached the Code.”

Kayak ran the Brain Surgery ad in both the UK and the U.S. in 2012, and just brought it back in the U.S., where it is airing on cable channels, including CNN.

The travel search site obviously believes that UK censors should just lighten up as the ad clearly is not meant to offend anyone, and it is likely that even people subject to brain surgery can see the humor in it.

What’s obviously not a joke is that Kayak believes the ad is effective, and it fits in with the company’s irreverent culture.

Actually, Kayak has used some of the same messaging in this and other ads going back to 2009. Namely: “Compare hundreds of travel sites at once. Kayak, search one and done.”

UK readers should watch the ad at your own risk (kidding). Here it is:

Uncover the next wave of innovation in travel.
June 4 in New York City
See Who's Coming

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Tags: advertising, kayak, regulators

Photo credit: Kayak's Brain Surgeon ad is airing again in the U.S. after a year's hiatus. UK regulators don't think it is funny. Kayak

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