ASA Ruling on Volvo Car UK Ltd
Volvo Car UK Ltd
16 December 2009
Number of complaints:
Euro RSCG 4D
An online banner ad for the Volvo XC60 stated "THERE'S MORE TO LIFE THAN A VOLVO. I'M JUST ON MY WAY BACK THROUGH ... CENTRE NOW. ARE YOU ... JILL'S COSTUME'S HERE YES THEY'RE GOING TO LOOK FANTASTIC ... THAT'S WHY THE VOLVO XC60 KEEPS AN EXTRA EYE ON THE ROAD ... DISCOVER CITY SAFETY ..." Some of the text was blocked by the image of a Volvo.
The complainant objected that the ad, which they believed featured the text of a mobile phone call, was irresponsible because it implied that concentration could be relaxed in traffic if driving a Volvo, which ran contrary to road safety good practice.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
Volvo Car UK Ltd (Volvo) acknowledged that the ad depicted someone talking on the telephone whilst driving, but said that was perfectly legal provided a suitable hands-free device was used and the driver was still paying the required attention to the road. They said the ad did not suggest the driver was using the phone in a dangerous way. They said they did not believe the ad was irresponsible, nor that it implied that concentration could be relaxed in traffic if driving a Volvo. They said the ad referred to "an extra eye on the road" which was a reference to the award winning City Safety feature on the Volvo XC60, that offered a layer of safety in addition to the absolute requirement of driver concentration. They said City Safety was a safety feature that could be deployed effectively in a number of different scenarios. They said it assisted and supported driver reaction times, rather than replacing the need for driver care and attention.
The publisher, Yahoo Mail, believed it was clear that the text of the ad depicted a driver having a hands-free mobile conversation in the vehicle, which was a legal and very common act to engage in whilst driving. They said the message "THAT'S WHY THE VOLVO XC60 KEEPS AN EXTRA EYE ON THE ROAD ... DISCOVER CITY SAFETY ..." emphasized that the Volvo XC60 could assist drivers with city centre safe driving through its built-in safety features. They did not believe the ad was encouraging unsafe driving or suggesting that a driver need not drive safely because of these features, but was merely setting the scene of a typical driving experience by an average driver and noting how the vehicle could offer additional protection in such situations. They said they believed this was emphasized in the tag line "keeps an extra eye on the road" which made it clear that the driver would already have both eyes on the road and the car would offer additional safety features. They said they considered the ad did not encourage irresponsible driving and was not socially irresponsible and was therefore suitable for Yahoo Mail readers.
The ASA understood that Volvo City Safety was an optical radar system which kept an eye on traffic in front of the XC60 and was active in slow moving traffic, at up to 30 kilometres per hour. We understood that, if the vehicle in front suddenly braked, and City Safety sensed a collision was likely, it would pre-charge the brakes to help the driver avoid an accident by braking, and additionally, when the system sensed that a collision was imminent, the car would brake automatically through hydraulic pump activation.
We noted it was legal to speak on a mobile phone whilst driving, provided a hands-free device was used. We considered that, because the ad referred to "AN EXTRA EYE ON THE ROAD", readers were likely to infer that it was promoting the additional road safety features of the XC60, rather than suggesting they could be a substitute for drivers keeping their own two eyes on the road.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code clauses 2.2 (Social responsibility), 10.1 (Safety) and 48.1 (Motoring) but did not find it in breach.
No further action required.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)