A pre-roll ad seen on YouTube on 20 April 2018 for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UK, promoting four cars: the 595 Pista; 695 Rivale; 124 GT; and 124 Spider. The ad began with four people simultaneously looking at their mobile phones, walking out of houses and getting into the cars. It then featured various scenes showing the four cars driving at high speeds in urban settings, usually with no other cars or people present, and predominantly on a series of elevated, tilting and intertwining roads running between high rise buildings. The cars were shown in quick succession driving on roads that included a steep spiral ramp from the top of a car park, a long straight elevated road with several dips and peaks, an extended bridge snaking sharply over a body of water, and roads with very steep gradients or that banked steeply to one side. One car drove through an under-water tunnel with a glass roof and when it emerged it was shown driving in parallel to and faster than a large boat moving on the water.
The four cars were mainly shown driving on separate roads and the ad featured the sounds of each car engine, and also tyre screeching sound effects. In one scene, two cars met when their tracks converged, and the 595 Pista overtook the 124 GT, while the drivers looked across to each other. A voice-over stated, “Your childhood hobbies are back”, and the four cars lined up in their order of finishing, in front of a large vertically looping track and a landscape with the elevated roads. The voice-over and on-screen text stated, “Let’s play again” and the final shot was an aerial view of the word “Abarth” etched in to the urban scene. In all the driving scenes text at the bottom of the screen stated “PROFESSIONAL DRIVERS ON CLOSED COURSE: DO NOT ATTEMPT. RACING ON THE ROAD IS PROHIBITED. ALWAYS OBEY SPEED LIMIT AND ROAD TRAFFIC LAWS. SOME FRAMES ARE COMPUTER -GENERATED IMAGERY”.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because it portrayed cars being driven at high speeds and racing, and condoned or encouraged unsafe or irresponsible driving.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UK Ltd said they did not consider that the ad fell into the ASA’s remit because it originated, and was produced and uploaded onto YouTube, outside of the UK. They said the ad was hosted on the international Abarth YouTube page which was not a ‘.co.uk’ domain. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UK acknowledged they had promoted the ad to UK YouTube viewers, but said it was always part of a central European campaign featuring left-hand drive vehicles with non-UK number plates, and that one of the cars featured, the 595 Pista, was branded the Trofeo in the UK. They also highlighted that the voice-over had an American accent; therefore, the ad was not targeted at UK consumers.
They said the spiralling, tilting and intertwining track running between high rise buildings was designed to emulate the Hot Wheels children’s toy cars game, by featuring inventive rollercoaster-like sections, a snaking and meandering bridge, a helter skelter, an underwater glass canopied track and a loop the loop feature. They said the reference to childhood hobbies and the statement “Let’s play again” reinforced that concept, and highlighted the ad’s inventiveness and creativity, rather than any competitiveness. They said the entire ad was aided in production by the use of Computer Generated Imagery, including the underwater car and motorboat scenes.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UK said the ad was creative in a manner which demonstrated to viewers that it did not represent the real-life capability of the cars or a demonstration of road driving skills. They said that none of the driving action took place on public roads, and because the ad was fantastical in nature and the imaginary location and other fanciful elements removed it from real-life driving, it did not condone irresponsible driving. Additionally they highlighted the written warning that appeared throughout the ad.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UK also said there were no references to speed in the voice-over and no shots of the vehicle’s rev counter, and all speeding scenes were limited to the track with the only view of normal roads and traffic far below. They said the final aerial shot showing the word Abarth etched on to the urban scene added to the fictional imagery. Additionally, they said that although a car emerged from a tunnel driving in parallel and faster to a large motorboat, they considered that the boat was not a speedboat and did not appear to be moving at any great speed, and that the scene did not give the impression of excessive speed.
The ASA noted that the ad was served to and viewed by the complainant as a pre-roll ad on YouTube. The ad had therefore been specifically served and targeted to UK consumers in paid-for space on YouTube by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UK Ltd, a UK company. The same ad was also hosted on a non-UK Abarth YouTube channel; that was not, however, the subject of the investigation. We considered that the pre-roll ad was not foreign media and did not originate from outside of the UK, and therefore the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising applied to the ad.
We considered that the overall impression of the ad was of speed, because the cars were seen driving at high speeds and in an aggressive manner in various scenes, accompanied by sounds of revving, loud engines and screeching tyres, and high tempo music. There were also several instances of the cars rapidly moving or accelerating out of view, or moving directly towards the camera.
The ad was clearly centred on a race between the four cars and the drivers, who appeared to be friends, displayed a competitive comradery, smiling or appearing bemused as they lined up in order of finishing. We were concerned in particular by a scene in which two cars converged and appeared to race. The 124 GT swerved into the lead with a skidding sound and was overtaken by the 595 Pista, and the two drivers exchanged competitive looks. We also considered that the on-screen disclaimer was not sufficient to mitigate the overall impression of the ad or warn against emulating those driving behaviours.
We noted Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UK’s comments that the ad was intended to be fantastical and did not demonstrate real-life driving, because the imaginary environment was similar to that of Hot Wheels. We acknowledged that the ad featured some fantastical driving scenes and made reference to childhood hobbies. However, we considered that the association with Hot Wheels would not be immediately obvious to or understood by many consumers. We considered that in many scenes the ad featured cars being driven at high speeds in environments not far removed from real roads and driving situations, or which looked very similar to real life. Additionally, the highly fantastical elements of the ad did not make up the majority of the screen time.
For those reasons, we considered that speed was the main message of the ad, and that it portrayed the cars racing and being driven in a manner that condoned or encouraged unsafe or irresponsible driving, that could be emulated. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not condone or encourage unsafe or irresponsible driving. If it could be emulated, marketing communications must not depict a driving practice that is likely to condone or encourage a breach of those rules of the Highway Code that are legal requirements if that driving practice seems to take place on a public road or in a public space. Vehicles' capabilities may be demonstrated on a track or circuit if it is obviously not in use as a public highway.
Marketing communications must not depict speed in a way that might encourage motorists to drive irresponsibly or to break the law.
To avoid the implication of irresponsible driving through excessive speed, care must be taken in the style of presentation of marketing communications. Particular care must be taken in, for example, cinema commercials and in marketing communications that appear in electronic media to avoid moving images that imply excessive speed. If they are shown in normal driving circumstances on public roads, vehicles must be seen not to exceed UK speed limits. and 19.4 19.4 Marketers must not make speed or acceleration the main message of their marketing communications. Marketing communications may give general information about a vehicle's performance, such as acceleration and mid-range statistics, braking power, road-holding and top speed. (Motoring).
The ad must not appear in its current form again. We told Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UK Ltd that speed must not be the focus of future ads, and to ensure they did not portray driving behaviour, including racing, that condoned or encouraged motorists to drive irresponsibly.