An anti-advertisement action group in the UK has managed to get a Toyota HiLux campaign banned on environmental grounds.
The group, called Adfree Cities, protested to the UK’s advertising watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about a 2020 advert from the Japanese carmaker that it said condoned environmentally harmful behaviour while calling for an end to advertising of high-carbon products and services.
ASA agreed and banned the ad saying it ad been created without “a sense of responsibility to society”.
It is the first time ASA has blocked an SUV advert on the grounds of breaching social responsibility in an environmental context.
The watchdog barred two ads, a poster and a video shown on social media, where dozens of Toyota Hilux cars drive across off-road terrain including a river, while a voiceover describes the scene as “one of nature’s true spectacles”. The ad was filmed in an undisclosed location.
ASA ruled that the adverts “condoned the use of vehicles in a manner that disregarded their impact on nature and the environment … they had not been prepared with a sense of responsibility to society”.
Veronica Wignall, a co-director at Adfree Cities, said: “These adverts epitomise Toyota’s total disregard for nature and the climate, by featuring enormous, highly polluting vehicles driving at speed through rivers and wild grasslands.”
“It’s a cynical use of nature to promote something incredibly nature-damaging.
Wignall added: “This ruling is a good moment to think about the limitations of what the regulator can do,” noting that the body relied on civil society to monitor ads for potential harm. The ASA can only act on adverts that are environmentally damaging through breaches of advertising codes … But the harms caused by high-carbon advertising go much deeper than that.
“Advertising for SUVs is pushing up demand for massive gas-guzzling, highly polluting cars in urban environments, just when we want streets that are safer and cleaner and an [accessible] low carbon transport system,” Wignall said.
Wignall added that Adfree Cities wanted to “stop high-carbon advertising at source” with a tobacco-style ban. “Similarly, climate breakdown is increasingly damaging health in the UK, as well as obviously across the world where impacts are felt more severely.”
Responding to ASA’s announcement, a Toyota spokesperson said: “Toyota does not condone behaviour that is harmful to the environment. In fact, over the course of the past three decades, not only has Toyota been one of the leaders in the automotive field in terms of carbon emissions reduction across its vehicle offering, it has shared hundreds of royalty-free licences, allowing others to use its electrification technology.
“As part of its wide range of global vehicle offerings, Toyota caters for customers who require a mobility option for reliable use in the harshest of terrains – those people who operate in off-road and remote settings.”
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