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ASA bans Volkswagen ad for encouraging ‘irresponsible driving’

Volkswagen Polo beats

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a Volkswagen television advert after it ruled that it encouraged irresponsible driving by exaggerating the benefits of a vehicle’s safety features.

Six complainants challenged whether an advert for a VW Polo in February 2018 promoting its advanced safety systems encouraged dangerous driving.

The first TV ad depicts a boy at various stages of his life, having accidents on bikes and small vehicles and being rescued by his father.

The opening sequence shows 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.

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 cuts 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”.

The ad 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”.

The second TV ad was a shortened version of the first ad.

Volkswagen Group UK 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.

It said the purpose of the ad was to promote safe and responsible driving and to highlight how the car’s safety systems could help drivers to manage certain hazards in safety.

However, the ASA said: “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 and was in breach of the Code.

“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.”

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