Audi 'Clowns' ad escapes ASA ban after claim it exaggerated safety features

Audi has escaped an ad ban from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after an investigation was launched into whether the car maker exaggerated the benefits of its safety features to consumers.

The ASA received one complaint about the ad - which promoted Audi's driver assistance and safety features - which took issue with the suggestion that the vehicle's features enabled people to be driven in complete safety.

To highlight the safety features of Audi's driver assistance, the commercial, which was broadcast in September 2017, featured various scenes of clowns driving dangerously or otherwise causing hazards for Audi drivers.

Yet, each time a potentially hazardous collision seemed inevitable due to the clowns' reckless behaviour, Audi's safety technology enabled the car to smoothly swerve away from imminent danger.

In response to claims that the ad, created by BBH, exaggerated the impact, parent firm Volkswagen Group UK said it "strongly believed the ad highlighted the existence and potential benefits of driver assistance features to consumers," and that it "did not exaggerate the benefit of those features or suggest that the features enabled Audi vehicles to be driven faster or in complete safety."

Further, against claims of reckless driving, the automaker stated that the setting and use of clowns was clearly "fantastical" and that no real people were shown on the streets.

The brand felt the closing strapline: 'Audi Technology. Clown Proof' would be interpreted in the specific context of the ad.

Lastly, Audi felt the on-screen text which stated 'some technology as standard and operates within certain distance and speed parameters' made it clear to viewers that there were limits to their effectiveness in the real world.

After assessing the challenged ad, ASA considered it "did not exaggerate the benefit of safety features to consumers or suggest that the vehicles' features enabled them to be driven in complete safety, and concluded that it had not breached the code."

It felt that the Audi vehicles were not shown moving particularly quickly. Although it could be argued that it may not be clear in each scene "whether the technology has alerted the driver to a relevant danger," the ASA felt that "viewers would generally understand warning lights to be driver aids."

Additionally it "understood that the vehicle was capable of automatically applying the brakes," which thus "did not exaggerate the benefit of the safety features."

The law firm Harbottle & Lewis commented on the complaint and the parallel with a recent decision against Nissan.

Senior associate Kostyantyn Lobov said: "The Audi decision is an interesting contrast to an adjudication on another ad by a car manufacturer issued just last week. Both were promoting similar adaptive safety technology in their cars, but one was banned while the other was not.

"In this case, what helped Audi was the fantastical presentation of the ad, and moving the focus of the ad away from the driver and their state of mind. This illustrates the fine margins on which the ASA sometimes reaches its decisions, particularly in the motoring sector, where even factors like the tempo of background music can be taken into account”

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