Insurance firm Aviva has been hit with a ban from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over a campaign starring Formula One driver David Coulthard which the regulator said "encouraged dangerous driving".
Almost 60 members of the public complained about a TV ad which ran earlier this year, and showed the F1 star disguised as a taxi driver with passengers in the backseats.
In the hero spot, and two shortened versions of it, the racer was shown driving at excessive speeds while performing stunts on public roads, with a voiceover stating at the end: "Paying for other peoples’ bad driving. There’s no excuse for that. At Aviva safer drivers could save an average of £170 on our car insurance. Download the Aviva Drive app to see if you could save."
While the brand forewarned viewers that the film was an "extreme driving experiment" and that it had been conducted under a controlled environment, dozens of consumers challenged whether the ads encouraged dangerous and irresponsible driving.
The ASA agreed that the campaign, which was designed to "make Britain's roads safer," featured reckless driving behaviour on public roads and therefore breached the rules.
Aviva argued that the ads showed an exaggerated version of the type of driving its Drive app set out to discourage, adding that the roads featured in the video were closed off to the public and in a safe environment supervised by professional stunt drivers. The brand also pointed to the fact that it warned viewers ahead of the video that it was an experiment, not to be replicated.
The ASA upheld it's ruling, it said: "We considered that ad primarily focused on the high speed and stunts performed by the car, which consequently overshadowed the 'warning' and 'experiment' on-screen texts that appeared at the start of the ad along with the ad’s underlying message that safe drivers could benefit from a saving with Aviva'scar insurance.
"Furthermore, the manner in which the car was driven was extremely reckless and given it was performed in a regular vehicle and on public roads whilst showing other vehicles to be in motion, were scenes that could potentially be emulated by viewers, putting themselves and others at a significant risk of danger by driving hazardously and in an irresponsible manner."
The watchdog has banned all three ads from being shown again.