A 60-second TV ad for BMW Mini featured various scenes in which a car was being driven. One showed a car being driven around a roundabout with two young children laughing in the back seat. Another clip showed a young man on his driving test smiling as he overtook a car. Another sequence showed the car driving on a narrow street containing people, with fireworks attached to the front and roof of the vehicle. Another scene showed the car being driven through a large puddle. The on-screen text at the end of the ad stated, "Mini. A friend for life ... not normal".
The complainants challenged whether the roundabout, learner driver, firework and puddle scenes encouraged harmful and irresponsible driving.
BMW (UK) Ltd explained that the idea of the brand campaign "not normal" was based on the concept of escaping the monotony of everyday life and expressing individuality. They said they had deliberately created a colourful and extraordinary world to act as staged scenery rather than reality.
Clearcast said they had viewed several edits of the ad before approving it and had removed some sequences because they believed they were unacceptable. They pointed out that the tone of the ad was in line with previous Mini ads, showing the car to be fun and full of character. They said they believed the ad continued the theme of light-hearted characterisation. They pointed out that the car in the roundabout sequence was being driven at a safe speed and only travelled around the roundabout once, rather than several times. They said the children shown in the ad were enjoying the motion of the car and not acting irresponsibly. They said the car in the learner driver sequence was driving at a safe speed, whilst the car it passed was driving at a much slower pace, and that the instructor was shown to be satisfied with the driving. They said the car driving through the puddle scene had been discussed at length and required several amendments before they were happy with it. They explained that, in this scene, they ensured the car was driving at a safe speed, did not cross the central hazard lines and that the sideward movement of the car was kept minimal. They said they believed the fireworks sequence was stylised and fantastical, which they believed was in line with previous approvals. They believed the ad was acceptable because it focused on the car's personality and its interaction with the driver.
The ASA acknowledged that some scenes within the ad reflected real-life circumstances and familiar urban settings. We noted that certain scenes, such as the firework sequence, might be seen to represent irresponsible driving. However, we noted BMW and Clearcast's comments about the way the Mini was driven. We considered that BMW had aimed to show a light-hearted characterisation of the Mini brand. We considered that the slogan "not normal" suggested that the ad was not showing orthodox or typical driving. We considered that viewers would interpret the ad as a colourful depiction of a car's personality rather than conventional behaviour that should be emulated. We considered that the slogan "a friend for life" reiterated that idea that the ad was focusing on the car's individual character. We considered that the firework scene continued the theme of individuality, with the car decorated in a unique way; viewers would interpret the firework scene as being fantastical, rather than reality-based. We considered that viewers would not take the ad literally or be encouraged to imitate the actions shown. Because of that, we concluded that the ad did not encourage harmful or irresponsible driving.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Responsible advertising), 4.4 4.4 Advertisements must not include material that is likely to condone or encourage behaviour that prejudices health or safety. (Harm and Offence) and 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. (Motoring), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.