Calls to ban Volkswagen adverts promoting irresponsible driving

Ban for Volkswagen adverts promoting car safety feature because they ‘encouraged irresponsible driving’

  • Two ads, shown in February, promoted Volkswagen’s Advanced Safety System
  • Watchdogs launched an investigation following complaints from seven viewers
  • They found the ads breached rules regarding motoring advertising, and banned them from being shown again 

TV ads for the VW Polo have been banned for encouraging ‘irresponsible’ driving.

The two ads, shown in February, promoted Volkswagen’s Advanced Safety Systems feature on the VW Polo.

But watchdogs launched an investigation following complaints from seven viewers.

They found the ads breached rules regarding motoring advertising, and banned them from being shown again.

The ads depict a boy at various stages of his life, having accidents on bikes and small vehicles and being rescued by his father.

The opening sequence showed the young boy who appeared to have fallen off his tricycle and then cut to the boy driving a go-cart on the pavement towards a man moving a bin, and then as an adolescent who appeared to have fallen off his bike from a makeshift ramp, resulting in a broken arm.


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A scene also showed him as a young adult standing with his father at a bridge while his moped was being salvaged from the river below.

The scene then cut to him as an adult driving on a dual carriageway with his father in the passenger seat, who appeared to be anxious.

When the driver indicated to switch lanes, an icon appeared in the wing mirror and the car was shown to closely miss colliding with a lorry driving in the next lane.

On-screen text stated ‘Blind spot detection is an optional extra’.

TV ads for the VW Polo have been banned for encouraging ‘irresponsible’ driving

The ads then showed them driving through a residential area and suddenly braking to a halt to avoid a pedestrian who had walked into the middle of the road.

An alert feature flashed on the dashboard behind the steering wheel. The father appeared to be relieved and taps the dashboard.

As the car drove on, on-screen text stated ‘For life’s adventurers*..We make the future real’.

Six of the complaints challenged whether the ads were irresponsible, because they ‘encouraged’ dangerous driving by exaggerating the benefit of the vehicle’s safety features.

Volkswagen Group UK Ltd said that the car was not shown to be driven dangerously and there was nothing that condoned or encouraged dangerous, competitive, inconsiderate or irresponsible driving.

The two ads, shown in February, promoted Volkswagen’s Advanced Safety Systems feature on the VW Polo

The firm said the purpose of the ad was to promote safe and responsible driving and to highlight how the car’s Advanced Safety Systems could help drivers to manage certain hazards in safety.

VW said, in terms of the depiction of driving, it was implied that the young man was a new driver without extensive experience and the father hadn’t been in a car with his son many times before.

Like many parents, the father was a nervous passenger when his son was driving.

VW said the theme was ‘light-hearted’ and the audience was aware that the father was conscious of previous incidents shown in the ad.

The ads depict a boy at various stages of his life, having accidents on bikes and small vehicles and being rescued by his father

The car maker said that when driving in an urban setting there was a close-up shot which showed the car being driven at 23 mph, which was well within the standard speed limit and appropriate for the road and conditions shown.

The firm also confirmed that the technology featured was depicted accurately without exaggeration.

They also said that there was nothing in the ad to suggest that the driver was doing anything other than paying attention to the road at all times or relying on the safety features to enable him to drive inappropriately, as he was shown to be paying attention throughout the driving sequences.

VW said, in terms of the depiction of driving, it was implied that the young man was a new driver without extensive experience and the father hadn’t been in a car with his son many times before

But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld the complaints, and banned the two ads from being shown again.

An ASA spoesman said: ‘We considered that the opening sequence of the ads, which featured the driver as a young boy driving a go-kart quickly around a corner and riding his bike up a ramp which resulted in him acquiring various injuries as he was growing up, suggested that the driver engaged in irresponsible behaviour that was likely to result in an accident.

‘We considered that the father’s visibly nervous disposition when sitting in the car as a passenger and the loud indie rock soundtrack played throughout the ads contributed to the impression that the driver was irresponsible.

One scene shows him as an adult driving on a dual carriageway with his father in the passenger seat, who appeared to be anxious

‘We noted the scenes which depicted two near miss incidents, prompting the vehicle’s safety features to activate.

‘However, we considered that the driver was not clearly shown to check his mirrors before indicating and almost turning into the overtaking lorry.

‘The car was also shown to be driven very closely behind the vehicle in front.

‘The second instance showed the vehicle abruptly halting after a pedestrian suddenly stepped out into the road, which activated the braking safety feature.

‘We considered that in the context of the driver’s previous mishaps shown in both ads, the on-screen text which read ‘For Life’s Adventurers’ and the suggestion that he was a new driver, implied that there was a reliance on the safety features.

A scene also showed him as a young adult standing with his father at a bridge while his moped was being salvaged from the river below

‘This was also implied in the scene where the father, who was aware of the driver’s history of accidents, tapped the dashboard with a sense of relief after avoiding an impact.

‘We therefore considered that the overall message of the ad was of reliance on the vehicle’s safety features to aid those who were likely to drive irresponsibly.

‘We concluded that the dependency on the Advanced Safety Systems exaggerated the vehicle’s safety features and the overall tone of the ad encouraged irresponsible driving.’

He added: ‘The ads must not appear in their current form.

‘We told Volkswagen Group UK Ltd not to encourage irresponsible driving by exaggerating the benefits of the vehicle’s safety features.’

Bans on ‘misleading’ Eurostar advert for fares ‘from as little as £29′ and Gatwick Express slogan of ’30 minute’ trains after so many were delayed

  • ASA strikes down Eurostar’s claim to sell tickets to France ‘from as little as £29’
  • It’s because the cheapest fares do not make up significant proportion of total
  • Gatwick Express trains can no longer be billed as ‘non-stop in half an hour’ 
  • ASA said ‘significant proportion were delayed for reasons within its control’

Two rail firms have hit the buffers with watchdogs, having adverts banned for making ‘misleading’ claims about fares and journey times.

Thameslink was told to remove posters advertising its Gatwick Express service with the claims ‘non-stop to Victoria station in half an hour’ and ‘in just 30 minutes’.

And a Eurostar ad on its website was found to be ‘misleading’ because a significant portion of the advertised fares weren’t available at the ‘from £29 one way’ price.

A Eurostar ad on its website was found to be ‘misleading’ because a significant portion of the advertised fares weren’t available at the ‘from £29 one way’ price. 

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated the Gatwick Express advert after two complaints that the time claims could not be substantiated.

Govia Thameslink said that it ran train services from 5am through to 10pm with a scheduled 30-minute direct journey from London Victoria to Gatwick Airport.

The firm said that a new timetable was introduced on May 20, and that they were currently updating all third-party media sites to reflect the new timetable and would remove the claims in question.

Gatwick Express provided data which showed that between April 30 last year and May 26 this year, a total of 79.1 per cent of scheduled trains between Victoria and Gatwick Airport arrived to their final destination on time.

But an ASA spokesman said: ‘We considered that consumers would interpret the claims to mean that the journey time between London Victoria and Gatwick airport on the Gatwick Express was 30 minutes.

‘While we acknowledged that consumers would appreciate that train services were occasionally subject to unforeseeable delays, we nevertheless considered that consumers would expect that the Gatwick Express achieved the stated journey time barring exceptional or unforeseeable circumstances outside of their control.

‘We noted that of the 20.1 per cent delayed services, the majority were delayed due to reasons such as staff sickness and technical/signalling faults.

‘Furthermore, of the services did not have a reason assigned to the delay or were classified as an uninvestigated delay.

Thameslink was told to remove posters advertising its Gatwick Express service with the claims ‘non-stop to Victoria station in half an hour’ and ‘in just 30 minutes’

‘Whilst we acknowledged that a proportion of services were delayed due to exceptional or unforeseeable circumstances outside of Gatwick Express’ control, such as track faults, fatalities and power supply failures, we considered that a significant proportion of services were delayed for reasons that were within Gatwick Express’ control’

The ASA spokesman added: ‘The ads must not appear again in the form complained of.’

The Eurostar website offering trains to France stated ‘With Eurostar tickets from as little as £29’ one way and ‘train to Lille from £29 one way’.

But a customer complained to the ASA that they were unable to find tickets from London to Paris at the price advertised.

Eurostar said that the availability of £29 fares was reviewed weekly by the Revenue Management team, who loaded additional capacity into the booking system for the ‘targeted booking horizon’, which was the period six to 18 weeks in advance of travel.

The firm argued that customers would not realistically expect to find the lead-in £29 fare available for departures within the immediate six weeks, and would instead expect this fare to be available for bookings made further in advance.

It accepted that the availability period for £29 tickets – six to 18 weeks in advance – could have been more clearly communicated to customers.

But an ASA spokesman said: ‘We considered that consumers would understand the claim ‘with Eurostar tickets from as little as £29’ to mean that a significant proportion of one-way tickets from London to Paris, Paris to London, London to Lille and Lille to London would be available to purchase at £29.

‘We also considered that consumers would expect to find the tickets available at the ‘from’ price across a range of dates and times within that period.

‘The £29 fares made up a very small percentage of one-way tickets from London to Paris in both directions within the relevant booking horizon.’

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