A TV ad promoted the BMW 3 Series. The ad began by showing the vehicle being driven along a road through the countryside. As the car approached a coastline, the voice-over stated, “Curves invite you in” and the ad showed the driver changing gear and the reading on the tachometer rapidly increased. The ad cut into a scene of a woman riding a rollercoaster, accompanied by a voice-over which stated, “Curves help you escape”. A brief shot of the car was then shown and the ad cut into a scene with a man in swimming trunks standing on top of a cliff, facing the sea. The voice-over stated, “Curves inspire you, and definitely dare you. And the new BMW 3 Series was made for every one of them”. The final scenes showed the car being driven along the coastal road, shot from various angles.
Three complainants, who believed the ad condoned dangerous driving, challenged whether it breached the Code.
BMW (UK) Ltd said the reference “Curves … definitely dare you” in the voice-over was representative of the enjoyment of driving and the tone of the ad was to encourage drivers to encounter a good driving experience. They said the ad did not contain any references to driving at speed or aggressive driving. The reference to “dare” was simply to challenge drivers to enjoy their journey.
Clearcast considered that the visuals did not in any way encourage unsafe driving. They felt that the lines “Curves inspire you. And definitely dare you” were not linked to speeding, but were associated with the enjoyable experience the car had to offer. They further stated that the message of the ad was to dare the driver to take a route that they might not normally consider, not for speed, but for comfort. In addition, they said that the rationale of the ad was that roads, such as those shown in the ad, might seem daunting when driving in an older car and that the 3 Series would ensure that this would not be the case, as the model had better safety features and handling in some circumstances.
Clearcast stated that, given the above, it was their opinion that the ad did not encourage dangerous driving, but rather it dared drivers to get a car which could make any road an enjoyable experience.
The ASA noted that quick acceleration and excessive speed were not explicitly indicated in the ad. However, we noted the ad showed the car being driven along the coastal road from various angles, through a succession of fast-paced shots, including a few aerial shots tracking the vehicle’s movements and shots of a gear change and of the tachometer rapidly increasing. We considered that this gave the impression that the car depicted was being driven along the winding coastal road at considerable speed.
The lines “Curves help you escape” and “Curves inspire you” were voiced concurrent to scenes of the rollercoaster ride and the man on the cliff respectively, which suggested that these two statements were referring to the “curves” of the rollercoaster track and the curve of the implied cliff jump. The interlacing of those two scenes, with fast paced shots of the vehicle travelling at seemingly considerable speed, likened the levels of exhilaration of the two adrenaline-inducing experiences shown to driving the 3 Series in the manner depicted. The voiced line “Curves … definitely dare you” further reinforced this impression and implied that driving at speed around twisting roads would be a daring, exciting and challenging experience. We considered that the final statement “and the new BMW 3 Series was made for every one of them” implied that that experience would be maximised by the handling ability of the 3 Series.
We considered that the handling capability of the vehicle had not been communicated in a clear context of safety, which was a requirement of the Code. Because the ad implicitly challenged the viewer to drive at speed around corners, we considered that it had also encouraged irresponsible and potentially dangerous driving. For those reasons, 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. and 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. (Motoring).
The ad must not appear in its current form again. We told BMW (UK) Ltd to ensure that future ads must not demonstrate the handling characteristic of a vehicle except in a clear context of safety, and that reference to this must not suggest excitement, aggression or competitiveness.