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ASA dismisses 96 Land Rover Defender ‘no restrictions’ advert complaints

Land Rover Defender 110

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has dismissed 96 complaints which claimed a Land Rover Defender advert undermined efforts to tackle climate change and ecological damage.

Jaguar Land Rover’s (JLR) advert for the AM Awards 2021's New Car of the Year, which featured in The Guardian newspaper back in June, showed a Defender off-road, in a forest setting, alongside the headline “Life is so much better without restrictions”.

Complaints – including representation from Adfree Cities, Badvertising and New Weather Institute – challenged whether the advert was misleading in that it implied the vehicle depicted was “above restrictions or rules, including those aimed at preventing climate change or other wide scale ecological damage”, the ASA said.

They also claimed it was “socially irresponsible” because it implied the vehicle depicted could be driven in forests or similar ecologically-sensitive environments, potentially encouraging or condoning behaviour that was detrimental to the environment.

In its response to the complaint, JLR said that it felt that Guardian readers would not reasonably infer that the ad suggested the vehicle itself was genuinely above restrictions or rules.

It said that the marketing campaign had struck an “up-beat in tone”, adding that the headline had referred to both the challenges faced by consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic and the easing of lockdown restrictions.

JLR told the ASA that it had not made use of use ecologically sensitive or protected areas when producing its advertising.

It also highlighted that the Land Rover Defender plug-in hybrid (PHEV) which featured in the advert was capable of carbon emission of 75g/km – claiming it was not heavily polluting – and was below the certified legal threshold for noise levels.

“The ad therefore did not irresponsibly condone or encourage the use of vehicles in ecologically sensitive areas, or promote disturbance to protected species”, it said.

Back in June - around the time the advert was published - AM reported that JLR had also confirmed that it will begin testing of a hydrogen fuel cell powered Land Rover Defender 4x4 at the end of this year.

The ASA said that the Guardian understood the ad had appeared in a number of other national newspapers around the same time and said they did not consider the ad to be socially irresponsible on the basis that it would encourage driving in a location or in a manner which was detrimental to the environment.

In its findings, the ASA said it considered that consumers were unlikely to interpret the claim in a literal way to mean that the vehicle had been exempted from any current laws, rules or regulations that were designed to combat global climate change or wide-scale ecological damage caused by the motoring industry.

In dismissing the complaints against the advert, it added: “Instead, we considered that the claim ‘Life is so much better without restrictions’, was ambiguous and could be read either simply as a claim celebrating the ability to use the vehicle to visit different locations without restriction or, when read with the text further down the ad that stated ‘Understandably, there are still restrictions as life slowly gets back to normal’, as a reference to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the easing of lockdown restrictions.”

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