A TV ad for BMW, seen on 5 November 2017, promoted their xDrive all-wheel drive system. The ad began showing cars driving in different conditions including through snow and rain. The ad cut into scenes of children playing in the mud and snow. A brief shot was shown of a car appearing to skid on a dirt trail. The voice-over stated, “Remember when everything you did was for the sheer pleasure of doing it? BMW XDRIVE. Intelligent all-wheel drive. Available across the range.” On screen text stated “GET OUT THERE”.
The complainant, who believed the ad condoned dangerous driving, challenged whether it breached the Code.
BMW (UK) Ltd said that the ad showed the technical capability of the BMW xDrive. They explained that the ad featured cars using the xDrive all-wheel drive system in different weather conditions and terrains. They said that all cars shown were driven in a safe and responsible manner with no excessive speeding.
BMW argued that the ad featured a number of scenes of the cars off public roads, such as the snowy mountain landscape which was filmed in a private area in Austria, on a muddy track in a forest and a dirt track in the desert. They said that there were only two scenes which showed public roads and the ad mostly featured environments that viewers were unlikely to encounter on public roads. They also highlighted that the scenes did not show any other cars or pedestrians. They said that the cars in the ad were all driven safely and at speeds which were appropriate for the conditions shown.
BMW highlighted the dictionary definition of “pleasure” which they said did not refer to excitement or challenges, but was defined as “a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment” which they believed to be more tranquil than excitement. They said that the scenes which featured children aimed to show that a driver could feel “pleasure” and could “get out there” like they did when they were a child, even when the conditions were not perfect. They said the BMW xDrive system allowed motorists to experience pleasure and “get out there” as the car enabled them to stay in control and drive safely. They argued that the ad showed that driving safely did not need to be boring. They said that it was unlikely that a viewer would interpret the ad to mean that they should drive cars just like a playing child.
BMW said that it was unlikely that a consumer would infer the cars were being driven at a higher speed because of a fast paced song or due to the quick interchange between scenes. They said that the song was selected because it was recognisable for their target audience and would allow better recall.
BMW said that the ad did not exaggerate the benefit of the vehicle. They said that the average driver would stay in control of the car in the situations shown in the ad when using xDrive system. They said that the ad did not show the cars skidding but a slight reduction in traction, which highlighted the technical capability of the xDrive system to react to a change in grip on each wheel. They said that the system reacted in under one-tenth of a second to move power between the front and rear axles to redistribute power to the wheel with the most grip to keep the car in control, if required.
BMW said that the ad had been aired three times for a total of 12 weeks and had been seen by an estimated 9.3 million viewers. They said that the fact that the ASA had received only one complain showed that viewers did not consider the ad to breach the BCAP Code.
Clearcast said that they did not consider any of the cars to skid during the ad as stated in the ad description. They said that the term “skid” suggested that the driver had lost control of the car, which did not occur during the ad.
Clearcast said that the ad had been revised three times to slow down the driving speed before final approval. They said that they had worked with BMW to ensure that the ad was compliant and believed the lack of complaints reflected that.
Clearcast said that the ad showed that the xDrive system allowed drivers to stay in control of the car in various weather conditions, therefore promoting safe driving. They said that the handling characteristics were shown safely and within the speed limit. They highlighted the fact that no other road users or pedestrians were present during the scenes.
The ASA noted that the ad highlighted the capability of BMW’s all-wheel drive feature – the xDrive system. The ad featured a succession of short, fast-paced scenes of cars driving in different weather conditions and terrains including across snow, in a desert and on public roads, alongside scenes of children playing in the snow and mud. The ad alternated quickly from one scene to the next and featured the fast-paced song “Song 2” throughout the duration of the ad. We considered that those features gave the impression that the cars were being driven at a considerable speed.
The ad prominently featured on-screen text “GET OUT THERE” and the voice-over “Remember when everything was for the sheer pleasure of doing it”. We considered that created the impression that using the xDrive system was an exciting and challenging experience. The ad also featured a number of scenes which showed children playing in the snow and mud. We considered that those scenes reinforced the fast nature of the ad and were likely to be understood as a metaphor for the sense of excitement and fun attributed to the driving experience using the xDrive system in various driving conditions.
We acknowledged that some of the scenes took place off public roads, but considered that the scenes were not significantly different to environments that viewers might encounter. We considered that the fact that they were accompanied by scenes on public roads suggested that the scenes in the ad could be emulated by viewers.
The on-screen text “GET OUT THERE” was followed by a brief shot of a car appearing to skid on a dirt trail. Whilst we acknowledged that the scene did not take place on a public road, we considered that a combination of the on-screen text and the voice-over “Remember when everything was for the sheer pleasure of doing it” suggested to viewers that the manoeuvre could be safely emulated, when it was likely to be dangerous if performed on a public road.
Because the demonstration of the capability of the xDrive system condoned faster, dangerous and irresponsible driving, and was presented in the context of excitement, we concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 20.1 20.1 Advertisements must not condone or encourage dangerous, competitive, inconsiderate or irresponsible driving or motorcycling. Advertisements must not suggest that driving or motorcycling safely is staid or boring. 20.3 20.3 Motoring advertisements must not demonstrate power, acceleration or handling characteristics except in a clear context of safety. Reference to those characteristics must not suggest excitement, aggression or competitiveness. and 20.5 20.5 Motoring advertisements must not exaggerate the benefit of safety features to consumers or suggest that a vehicle's features enable it to be driven or ridden faster or in complete safety. (Motoring).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told BMW (UK) Ltd to ensure that future ads did not condone dangerous or irresponsible driving by suggesting that a vehicle’s features such as the all-wheel drive enabled it to be driven faster. We also told BMW not to demonstrate handling characteristics in the context of excitement.