ASA Ruling on Honda UK Ltd
Honda UK Ltd
470 London Road
30 January 2013
Television, Internet (video)
Number of complaints:
Dentsu McGarry Bowen LLC
A TV ad for a Honda CR-V car showed the car waiting at a set of traffic lights at a T-junction, opposite a house. As the lights changed from red to green, the driver was staring vacantly ahead at the house. Cracks appeared on the wall of the house and the timbers of the house extended outwards, creating a large vortex hole in the house, destroying the interior. Meanwhile, the driver looked over his shoulder and reversed the car; the car then stopped and the driver stared straight ahead. The voice-over stated, "When you see the chance to do something new, take a deep breath and jump." From inside the vortex, the stationary car was seen in the distance with its lights on, and a cyclist rode across the T-junction. The driver put the car into gear and accelerated ahead, across the junction and into the vortex, and the traffic lights were briefly shown as being on green. The voice-over stated, "Isn't life more interesting, when we do more new." On-screen text stated "CR-V-DO-MORE-NEW-".
Five viewers challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and condoned dangerous driving.
Honda UK Ltd stressed that they unequivocally did not encourage unsafe or irresponsible driving. When the ad was produced there was particular attention paid to the Highway Code and BCAP Code and careful consideration was given to Clearcast at every juncture of production. They said the aim of the ad was to highlight the CR-V's difference to other cars; that it was a car designed, conceptually, to enable people to try new and exciting things. It had been conceived and designed as a versatile vehicle and the ad was designed to dramatise that notion.
They said the CR-V target market was predominantly 45- to 55-year olds who were at a 'reinvention' stage of their life, who had a youthful mind-set and were in search of enriching experiences. They said potential SUV drivers shared Honda's passion for 'big ambition' and felt that there was still a lot of life they had yet to experience. Therefore, to help communicate that feeling of empowerment, their creative agency sought inspiration from the surreal 'portal' or 'wormhole', which was seen frequently in literature, TV and film. They said it was used as a visual metaphor in the ad and the surreal wormhole shown in the ad helped communicate the notion of taking a 'leap of faith', an adventure into the uncharted and unknown, and something that shouldn't be seen as scary but instead empowering.
They said the extras, other vehicle and cyclist were all intended to demonstrate that the driver of the CR-V was the only person able to see this magical portal, and that while the story was set in the 'real world', there was a magical, surreal and fantastical twist which was depicted by the portal which clearly communicated an artificial and fictional environment.
They stated that, upon witnessing the extraordinary occurrence of the portal, the driver proceeded to reverse the vehicle, intrigued and amazed by what was happening in front of him, and once he had come to a standstill, and after a moment of hesitation, which was clearly depicted in the body language of the driver and was reinforced by the voice-over, he then decided to drive toward the portal. They felt it was clear to viewers that the surreal and forming portal was purely conceptual and acted as a gateway, as evidenced by the fact that the car did not damage the house.
They said the scene with the cyclist riding past the portal before the driver put the CR-V into gear did not suggest that the driver was driving dangerously or that the cyclist was in danger at any moment, but was designed to show that the location was residential and occupied, with everyday people doing everyday things whilst not noticing the portal. They added that the cyclist had clearly moved past the house and exited the intersection well before the CR-V was put into gear and it was clear that the CR-V was driving toward the portal and not the cyclist. They said the traffic light was also green, indicating other traffic would not pass in front of him.
They did not consider that the driving scene depicted high or dangerous speed and said it did not represent the performance of the vehicle, but was simply showing acceleration. They added that the engine sounds were reduced to decrease the emphasis on the reversing and acceleration scenes, and pointed out there were no other cars driving on the road during that scene. They stated that the vehicle was never depicted to be out of control or endangering anyone or anything.
Clearcast said the ad involved a very surreal premise, namely a portal to another universe opening in the side of a house while the driver was waiting at the junction. Nevertheless, at pre-production stage, they worked closely with Honda to ensure that the driver would be obeying driving regulations. They said the ad was meant to convey curiosity and the sensation of trying something new for the first time (as per the tagline, 'Do More New') and was not meant to convey excitement or aggression in a driving context. To that end, they felt the speed shown was not excessive and the ad did not focus in any way on the car's power, acceleration or handling.
They pointed out that the driver followed the traffic lights, but when they changed to green, he did not move off immediately, as his attention had been caught by the portal opening. They pointed out that he was not causing any inconvenience or hazard to other traffic at that stage and the only other car was in a different lane and was shown moving off unimpeded by the driver's actions. They stated that, when the portal began to open, the driver reacted with a level of fear and reversed away from it, but did not reverse in a dangerous way, and was clearly shown looking where he was going.
They said the bicycle was seen travelling across the road at the top of the T-junction and it was fair to presume that while the driver was reversing away from the portal, the traffic lights had changed again to allow the cyclist across. They considered that the bicycle clearly had enough time to get across the junction by the time the driver had started to move forward and the next shot showed that the junction was clear. They added it was important to note that there were no other cars, bicycles or pedestrians on the road, and it was also clearly shown that the traffic lights were green and it was safe to proceed.
They said they were happy to clear the ad on the basis that the driving shown was responsible and safe, both in terms of the driver's own safety and the safety of other road users, especially given the surreal nature of ad. They said that, at all times, the driver was shown to be in full control of the car, the speed shown was not excessive and the ad did not focus unacceptably on speed, power, acceleration or handling in a way that would condone dangerous, competitive, inconsiderate or irresponsible driving.
The ASA acknowledged that the driver in the ad drove through an intersection towards a house and did not appear to check whether the junction was clear before driving. However, although we noted that a cyclist crossed the junction before the driver began to drive towards the house, we also understood that the intersection was controlled by traffic lights and that they were green for the driver and it was his right of way as he drove towards the house.
Moreover, although the action in the ad took place in a familiar and realistic urban setting, ostensibly governed by the Highway Code, we considered that the overall tone was surreal and supernatural, in light of the large portal which opened up in the side of the building, into which the driver felt compelled to drive. Because the action was predominantly surreal in content, we considered that viewers would recognise that the action of driving towards a supernatural opening portal was not realistic behaviour and was therefore unlikely to encourage viewers to ignore their own responsibility regarding road safety and would not encourage them to emulate the action in the ad. We therefore concluded that the ad was not irresponsible and did not condone dangerous driving.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 1.2 (Responsible advertising), 4.4 (Harm and offence), 20.1, 20.2, 20.3 and 20.4 (Motoring), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.