The Australian government is calling for increased scrutiny of automotive advertisements after Volvo was chastised by the Advertising Standards Bureau for promoting reckless driving in their recent V60 campaign.
The Volvo spot, (embedded below from the YouTube channel of one complainant), features a vehicle zipping round a wharf, being driven by a professional driver similar to Top Gear's 'the Stig'.
The footage is sped up and slowed down at intervals, making the car appear to be driving very fast and very slow, and features a 180 degree stop. A fantastical black panther also leaps into its boot at the end.
While the ad has since been removed from TV at the behest of the ASB, which upheld complaints from the public surrounding the "unsafe" "reckless" depiction of the car in May, the Department of Infrastructure and Transport yesterday filed a request for a review of industry regulation of motor vehicle advertising.
Do you think Volvo's ad should have been pulled off air for promoting reckless driving? Or is the ASB code pedantic? Leave your comments at the end of this article.
The body is seeking a review of the literature relating to the regulation of vehicle advertising, particularly in relation to health and safety concerns and a summary of the current arrangements and practices relating to industry regulation of the content of motor vehicle advertising in Australia.
It has also called for an assessment of the effectiveness of current practices preventing vehicle ads from displaying and promoting inappropriate behaviours, and advice on opportunities to improve current arrangements, including how the National Road Safety Council might influence the process.
While some may see increased government scrutiny as a threat to the creativity of car manufacturers and their agencies, Martin Griffin, executive director OneMazda at CHE Melbourne, told B&T that brands should know when they're overstepping the mark.
"Car companies and agencies have to be very careful of how we depict the vehicles when they are driving.
"When we make TV commercials there is hundreds of thousands of dollars in production so we wouldn’t risk it and Mazda certainly wouldn’t let us risk producing an ad which is then going to be pulled off air.
"Part of that brief to the entire creative department will be to remember to the parameters with the ASB, so that means the vehicles are not to be shown to be doing dangerous driving or stunts," said Griffin.
But that's not to say the code is always clear. It currently permits fast and unsafe depictions of driving if the scenario is considered to be a "fantasy". Volvo argued that its V60 spot was a depiction of a fantasy, generated by the inclusion of a panther and the unrealistic motion of the car.
"There is a very fine line with…what the public would perceive as fantasy and what we may perceive as creative fantasy… I think it’s a little bit vague," Griffin told B&T.
Furthermore, some accuse the ASB of upholding double standards. While these rules are very strictly applied to automotive advertising, if cars are depicted in unsafe or reckless ways in non automotive work then complaints are rarely made and ads are rarely removed.
"If you look at non automotive ads on air at the moment [Griffin refers specifically to a confectionary ad, the brand of which he can't remember] there is a car doing a handbrake park. They can get away with it more than the car companies and their agencies.
Key in moving industry regulation forward, then, is the introduction of standardised practices across all sectors, says Griffin.
"I think if there is going to be legislation its got to be across all segments where vehicles are involved," he said.
Do you think the current vehicle advertising regulations are too strict? Leave your comments in the box below.