Volkswagen has been given a slap on the wrists and a ban from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over a Polo ad which the regulator said "encouraged "irresponsible driving".
Six members of the public said the car marque had encouraged dangerous driving by exaggerating the benefit of the vehicle’s safety features, and the regulator agreed.
The cinematic spot (above) tells the story of an accident-prone son and his long-suffering father who was constantly having to rescue him from tricycle, bike and, later, moped accidents.
The Adam&EveDDB-created ad then cuts to a shot of the boy, now an adult, driving on a dual carriageway while his dad sat beside him in the passenger seat.
The polo he's steering encounters a number of near misses. When it almost collides with a lorry in the next lane the on-screen text states 'blind spot detection is an optional extra'. Then, when he's inches away from running over a women in a residential street, an alert flashes up on the dashboard – the premise of the ad being that Volkswagen's technology helped prevent potential accidents.
As the car drives on, the ad ends on the tagline: 'For life’s adventurers….We make the future real'.
Volkswagen said that nothing in the TV campaign, or the shorter online version, condoned dangerous, competitive or irresponsible driving.
Noting that the ad had already painted the central figure as being clumsy, Volkswagen argued the theme of the spot was light hearted and said its tech had been depicted accurately without exaggeration.
However, the ASA said that the "nervous disposition" showcased by the visibly nervous father in the ad, coupled with a loud indie soundtrack contributed to the impression the driver was irresponsible.
"We considered that in the context of the driver’s previous mishaps shown in both ads, the on-screen text which read 'For Life’s Adventurers' and the suggestion that he was a new driver, implied that there was a reliance on the safety features," added the watchdog.
"This was also implied in the scene where the father, who was aware of the driver’s history of accidents, tapped the dashboard with a sense of relief after avoiding an impact," it added, saying that the overall message of the ad was of reliance on the vehicle’s safety features to aid those who were likely to "drive irresponsibly".
The ad, which comes as the Volkswagen brand continues its road to recovery following the 2015 emissions crisis, must not be shown again in its current form.