Three TV ads for Aviva’s motor insurance seen in January 2017:
a. The 60-second ad featured on-screen text that stated, “WARNING Conducted under a controlled environment. Do not attempt to recreate” and “THE AVIVA EXTREME DRIVING EXPERIMENT”. Following this were scenes showing ex-Formula One driver David Coulthard disguised as a taxi driver with passengers in the back seats, and was driving at excessive speeds whilst performing various stunts on public roads.
The voice-over at the end of the ad stated, “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”.
Towards the end of the ad was small text at the bottom of the screen that stated “Discount on 1st car per direct Aviva comprehensive policy. Depends on score and premium - min £200. 40% scoring 7.1+ saved £170 or more … Compatible handset required”. At this point David Coulthard revealed himself to the passengers.
The final scene showed graphics of a smartphone with the text “AVIVA Good thinking #DriveSafer …”.
b. A 30-second abridged version of ad (a) and featured the same “warning” and “experiment” on-screen texts.
c. A 20-second abridged version of ad (a) and featured the same “warning” on-screen text that appeared in ads (a) and (b). The small text that appeared at the bottom of ads (a) and (b) was shown throughout the ad and towards the end featured a scene with the text “Safer drivers save an average of £170 on car insurance” and was followed by the final scene which showed graphics of a smartphone with the text “AVIVA Good thinking aviva.co.uk ….
Fifty-eight complainants challenged whether the ads encouraged dangerous and irresponsible driving.
Aviva UK Digital Ltd stated that ad (a) was no longer being broadcast, but that ad (c) or a variation of it would be shown until October 2017. They stated that they had edited a significant proportion of the extreme driving elements from ad (c) to ensure balance and clarity of the message about the “Drive App” that was being promoted, which offered safer drivers a potential discount on their car insurance with Aviva.
Aviva stated that all three ads were part of a broader campaign driven out of a social purpose to help make Britain’s roads safer. They stated that the ads highlighted, through the depiction of bad driving via an extreme taxi journey, that safer motorists should not have to pay for other people’s bad driving, but should be rewarded. They added that the ad was intended to promote Aviva’s “Drive app”, which was intended to actively encourage and reward safer driving. Furthermore, the stunts performed by David Coulthard were not intended to encourage or condone dangerous and irresponsible driving, but to denounce and discourage it. Aviva had carried out consumer research using focus groups to ensure that the tone and level of “extreme driving” depicted in the ads was appropriate for the target audience, and that the intended message was clear.
They believed that the ads encouraged and promoted safer driving and commented that they had produced further campaign material to support that, including a behind-the-scenes film showing David Coulthard explaining (as a former F1 driver) that there was a place for the kind of driving depicted in the ads, but that place was not on public roads. Furthermore, he had urged people to take the “the Aviva Brake Pledge”. This pledge was an outcome of Aviva’s partnership with a charity that campaigned for safer roads.
Aviva stated that all three ads depicted an exaggerated version of the kind of driving which their “Drive app” set out to discourage. The ads were filmed on roads that were closed off to the public and in a safe environment supervised by professional stunt drivers and co-ordinators. They believed that viewers would understand that driving in the manner depicted in the ads would be dangerous and unlawful, and that it would result in the driver not benefiting from the saving which was referenced in the ad. To ensure that viewers understood that all three ads featured a staged event and that they should not in any circumstance try to recreate it, a notice was displayed at the beginning which stated, “WARNING Conducted under a controlled environment Do not attempt to recreate”. Furthermore, ads (a) and (b) featured a further on-screen notice, which stated “THE AVIVA EXTREME DRIVING EXPERIMENT”.
Aviva believed viewers would understand that until the end of the ad, the passengers were being secretly filmed without their knowledge that the taxi driver was David Coulthard in disguise. They stated that the car was shown being driven erratically and in an exaggeratedly dangerous manner, and being involved in various “set up” stunts. However, they believed that those stunts would be difficult to emulate on public roads and that viewers had already been informed that the ads were depicting an experiment, conducted in a controlled environment and that they must not attempt to recreate what they saw.
Aviva stated that all three ads concluded with David Coulthard and the camera crew revealing themselves to the passengers and was included to re-enforce the fact that the ad had depicted a planned set-up. Furthermore, the reactions of the passengers were their genuine and unscripted reactions. They were shown to be surprised and somewhat confused by the experience, and later visibly relieved to discover that they had not been in any danger, as the car had been driven by a professional driver.
Aviva believed that depictions of dangerous or careless driving were commonly used to demonstrate road safety and that the BCAP Code did not prohibit the depiction of poor, inconsiderate and dangerous driving, including breaches of the Highway Code, in order to demonstrate that such behaviour was unacceptable.
Clearcast stated that the intention of the ads was to highlight that people who drove well were often tarred with the same brush as people in their segmentation who might drive badly. For instance, a driver aged between 18 and 25 years might be perceived as a dangerous driver, even if they had never driven dangerously. As a result, the insurance premium would be higher and such consumers would end up paying more than they should because of how other motorist drove. However, if they could prove that they were a safe driver, which could be done using the “Drive” app, Aviva would lower their insurance premium.
Clearcast stated that the ads featured ex-Formula One driver David Coulthard disguised as a taxi driver with passengers in the back seats. The start of the ad also featured text that stated, “WARNING Conducted under a controlled environment. Do not attempt to recreate” and “THE AVIVA EXTREME DRIVING EXPERIMENT”.
Clearcast had discussed the ads at length with the advertising agency to ensure no Code rules were breached. They took the view that a reasonable viewer would see that the ads were preceded by a warning advising them not to recreate the action and that a controlled environment, coupled with a highly skilled former racing driver were used. The entire premise of the ad was to recognise the stunts as bad driving, not to be aspired to or emulated by drivers on public roads. This was reinforced by the voice-over, “Paying for other peoples’ bad driving. There’s no excuse for that”.
Clearcast believed that the hidden camera show parody, along with the over the top, stylised driving and prominent warnings, all contributed to the narrative that the driving behaviour depicted in the ads was being discouraged and condemned.
The ASA understood that all three ads were promoting the “Aviva Drive” app that monitored a motorist’s driving skills. The app would provide a driving score out of 10, which would determine how much consumers could save on their car insurance with Aviva.
Aviva stated that the ad promoted the app through the depiction of bad driving via an extreme taxi journey, conveying the message that safer motorists should not have to pay for other people’s bad driving, but be rewarded. They believed that the ad clearly promoted an app intended to actively encourage and reward safer driving.
The “warning” and “experiment” on-screen texts appeared in ads (a) and (b), and ad (c) included the “warning” notice, which all appeared before any extreme driving/stunts were performed. We considered viewers would understand from the on-screen text along with the subsequent scenes showing real passengers being picked up in a taxi in a residential area and being driven around in what looked like public areas, that the extreme driving and stunts were performed on public roads that had been closed to minimise risk.
All three ads featured the same voice-over towards the end. Furthermore, the final scenes in ads (a) and (b) included the text “#DriveSafer” and towards the end of ad (c) stated, “Safer drivers save an average of £170 on car insurance”. We considered viewers would understand from that, that the ads were promoting the “AVIVA Drive” app, which they needed to download to find out if they were deemed to be a safe driver and if so, how much they could save with AVIVA’s car insurance.
The introduction of ad (a) showed a car being driven towards the camera at a high speed and skidding. Shortly after this was a montage of scenes that featured the vehicle travelling at excessive speeds and performing various stunts with sound effects. The car was shown reversing at an excessive speed with the female passenger saying “slow down”. The car then skidded around into the next lane whilst there were vehicles in close proximity in both lanes. The car was then shown being driven at a high speed, making another vehicle abruptly stop to let it skid pass. One scene then showed the car driving onto a prop that resembled a mini-roundabout, which made it airborne and subsequently slammed back onto the road once it landed and continued to speed off and skid corners. The car was then shown hitting a pile of bricks whilst tilting on its right-hand side and remained so for a few seconds. It then slammed down onto the road and continued to travel at an excessive speed swirling around a corner and then hitting some plastic barriers and skidding to a stop. Furthermore, we noted that all these scenes were fast-paced with quick acceleration, braking and skidding accompanied with sound effects, and along with the passengers’ reactions whilst inside the car, we considered contributed to the depiction of the car travelling at an excessive speed.
Because of those scenes we considered that ad (a) 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’s car 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.
Because of that, we considered that the ad had featured reckless driving behaviour on public roads and therefore concluded that ad (a) encouraged dangerous and irresponsible driving.
We noted that the problematic scenes we identified in ad (a) were also included in ads (b) and (c) which were abridged versions and consequentially, concluded also encouraged dangerous and irresponsible driving.
Ads (a), (b) and (c) breached BCAP Code rule 20.1 (Motoring).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Aviva UK Digital Ltd that their advertising must not encourage dangerous and irresponsible driving.