A Volkswagen TV ad that boasted its new model was “too powerful for TV” has been taken off air for breaking the road rules. The ad interspersed scenes of the Amarok V6 ute driving, with shots of a “director” planning shots that wouldn’t be allowed under Australian advertising standards.

But the ad was reported to the Advertising Standards Board for encouraging dangerous driving, in particular reference to a scene where the ute was planned to overtake two side-by-side road trains by going off-road. It ran with the tagline, “Too powerful for TV”.

The ad, which industry news website Mumbrella awarded its October ad of the month, was found to have breached the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries Code of Practice for Motor Vehicle Advertising (FCAI code):

The panel considered that while the advertisement does attempt to use humour and avoid breaching the FCAI code by cutting away from the footage of the vehicle, the vehicle is still depicted as starting to overtake the trains … The panel considered that there is significant community concern around road safety in relation to unsafe overtaking, (and) … even the suggestion of the vehicle overtaking and narrowly pulling in front of the roadtrains as they entered the canyon, through the use of models and storyboards, is a depiction that would be against road safety standards.

In voting for the ad for Mumbrella’s award, industry professionals praised it as “playful”, “epic” and “humorous”. 

A Volkswagen spokesman told Crikey that the ad had been created to work within advertising restrictions, and noted the Mumbrella award:

Volkswagen respects the findings of Ad Standards and of course will adhere to them; but, as the original ad seeks to show, we are acutely aware of the many restrictions placed on car advertising in this country. There are several edits of the ad. Notably the ad was banned on the same day as it won ‘Ad of the Month’ in an advertising industry publication.

Under the code, car advertisements are not allowed to depict dangerous or illegal driving. Volkswagen argued to the panel that all the live scenes had been shot in a controlled environment and within the road rules when on public roads, and that it included disclaimers on-screen that it had been filmed under controlled conditions. But the panel ruled this was not sufficient, and that “the use of fantasy elements and exaggeration did not mitigate the depiction of unsafe driving”.

Volkswagen’s agent DDB, which produced the ad, is editing it for future broadcast.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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