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A UK regulator “got it booking right” when it ruled that a Booking.com TV ad was not offensive and did not breach advertising rules when it used a wordplay on “f**king.”
After receiving 2,345 complaints about the Booking.com ad from viewers concerned that it was offensive and in appropriate for children, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority “noted that the word ‘booking’ was used throughout the ad in a variety of contexts that each lent themselves to substitution with an expletive, and that many viewers would understand the use of ‘booking’ as word play on the word ‘f**king.'”
“However, we considered that the voice-over artist enunciated the word clearly and that it was sufficiently distinct so as not to be generally confused with the word ‘f**king,'” the ASA stated.
The ad that attracted the ASA’s attention included a voiceover with the words: “This holiday has been a year in the planning. And here you are standing, nay staring down your dreams. The rest of your holiday hinges on the moment you walk through that door. The door opens, you hold your breath and then you realise.
“You got it right. You got it booking right. Because it doesn’t get any better than this. It doesn’t get any booking better than this. Look at the view, look at the booking view. This is exactly what you booking needed. Bask in the booking glory at over half a million properties. Planet earth’s number one accommodation site. Booking dot com, booking dot yeah.”
Booking.com uses the same verbiage in its latest TV ad campaign in many of its largest markets.
During the investigation — yes, the ASA actually investigated this — Booking.com defended the ad stating that the repeated use of the word “booking” was designed to reinforce its brand, and that the word was relevant and clearly enunciated.
Booking.com stated that the use of the word showed enthusiasm, was used in a positive way, and pointed out that regulatory authorities and Canada and Australia had not forced changes in the ad.
This is the same UK regulatory ad that banned a Kayak TV ad for being insensitive to patients and their families that had undergone or been affected by brain surgery.
The ASA also announced that it banned a Medical Tourism Association ad for trivializing cosmetic surgery by saying it could be easily combined with travel abroad.
Here’s Booking.com’s latest TV ad, but not the exact one considered by the ASA.