Two ads for Ford Motor Company Ltd, seen on their YouTube channel and at the cinema in July 2018:
a. The cinema ad featured a voice-over that stated, “Do not go gentle into that goodnight. Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage. Rage against the dying of the light. The wise men at their end know dark is right. Because their words had fought no lightning. They do not go gentle into that goodnight. Rage. Rage, against the dying of the light.”
During the voice-over, scenes showing people commuting to work, arriving at the office, in meetings and carrying out work were shown and featured people in difficult situations. The ad then showed a black screen with the text “DON’T GO QUIETLY”, and after that were scenes showing a car being driven out of a car park and onto a public road.
b. The YouTube ad was identical to ad (a).
Twelve complainants challenged whether the ads encouraged unsafe driving because they depicted driving as a way of relieving anger.
Ford Motor Company Ltd said that the ads’ intention was to contrast the everyday frustrations of work life with the freedom of driving a new Ford Mustang.
Ford said that the first half of the ads was based on the insight that individuals generally tended to hold back from expressing themselves and revealing their true passions. The ads first painted a picture of a typical working day where workers faced typical daily frustrations such as a jammed photocopier, spilt coffee, and a foot being stepped on in the train. Those were scenarios to which Ford expected the viewer to relate. In the second half, the ads showed a Mustang starting up and being driven out of the city, symbolising the end of daily work frustrations and moving on to an enjoyable experience in the vehicle. Ford’s intention was for the viewer to imagine that driving the car would give them a sense of freedom contrasting with the every daily frustrations shown in the first half of the ads. Furthermore, Ford said that the ads did not show who was driving the car and that there was a clear distinction between the two halves of the ads. Ford believed that by the end of the ads, viewers were left to imagine how they would feel driving the car instead of experiencing in the daily grind of office life.
Ford said that the voice-over spoken in the first section of the ads was quoting a famous poem called “Do not go gentle into that good night’”, and was accompanied by music that slowly built to a crescendo, but then stopped. The poem was an invitation for viewers to live a little more boldly and not to live a life of regret when reflecting on the passage of time. Essentially, the poem's message was life affirming, and its reference in the ads was suggesting that a Ford Mustang could be the antidote to a dull life. Ford noted that the poem used the term ‘rage’, but in the context of the poem, the word was not used to communicate anger or aggression, but passion and enthusiasm.
Ford said that the visuals in the film did not depict anger, but instead frustration with daily life. The breaking of the pencil was used to symbolise the accumulated frustrations of a dull meeting that had gone on too long, but did not reflect rage or anger.
Ford said that the car was first fully shown in the ads in an underground car park with its engine starting up. The model used was their 5.0 V8 version, which had a very distinctive, powerful growl, even at slow speeds and that the engine noise in the ads had not been enhanced. The car was then seen to drive out of the car park and onto a clear street. There was no other traffic in view, no hazards or pedestrians to distract the driver. The car was shown driving in accordance with the Highway Code and throughout filming, the car did not exceed 15 mph. The ads did not show any scenes of road rage and at no point during the ads was the car driven in an unsafe or dangerous way and was compliant with the Highway Code.
The Cinema Advertising Association (CAA) said that they viewed the office workers in the ads as displaying the irritations, frustrations, and repressed sense of injustice that could haunt people as they commute, do their jobs, or receive a “dressing down”. That mounting level of stress reached a climax when the man snapped his pencil. The voice-over reciting the poem implied such a level of stress did not have to be quietly accepted. The CAA considered that referred metaphorically to the Ford Mustang, with its loudly flamboyant colour and design waiting to be driven home from the car park, and quite literally to the noise the car would inevitably make (even when driven at 30 mph) due the acoustic enhancement its tail pipes lend to the sound of the exhaust.
The CAA therefore considered that the ads presented the car as an antidote to office stress, not a channel for rage. They believed that the ads generally depicted a herd-like commute of office workers, which showed: one person frustrated from dealing with a lift that failed to stop at the desired floor; a woman objecting to, but ultimately resigning to have her foot stepped on in a train; a man spilling his coffee; the sense of defeat at seeing a cleared in-tray of work abruptly refilled to bursting; the frustration of dealing with a problematic photocopier; and a man having to repress the urge to answer back to a senior member of staff to the point where he broke his pencil. However, the CAA considered that the only scene which might be interpreted as showing rage was when the man snapped his pencil.
The CAA said that all those scenes were interleaved with glimpses of a Ford Mustang intimating an alternative world. The title “DON’T GO QUIETLY” was followed immediately by the noise of the car which, when finally seen properly was shown being driven responsibly (if noisily) down the spiral carpark ramp, through a green lighted exit and finally shown driving along a city road at an appropriate urban traffic speed. No sign or expression of rage was shown in the driving or handling of the car. Rather, its presence throughout, in flash glimpses and at the end of the ads, was presented as an escape, albeit a noisy one, from the stresses of office life.
The ASA noted that the ads featured a scene showing a man going into a lift with a discontent expression whilst other office workers proceeded to go into the lift before him. The man then showed anxiety when the lift did not stop on the floor he had pressed the button for. In other scenes, a woman on a train had her foot stepped on and a man spilt coffee on his papers, to which they both displayed a look of shock and distress. In further scenes a woman was shown at her desk smiling when a colleague entered the room, but as soon as her in-tray was filled with more work, we noted that her facial expression changed to looking displeased. The ads then showed a scene showing a distressed man having difficulty operating a photocopier who was hastily tapping a button for it to work, and then used hand gestures to show his frustration with the matter.
The ads included further scenes of a young man sitting in a meeting room whilst an older man was standing and shouting at him and in one scene, the older man banged his hands on the desk to further show his frustration towards the younger man. Throughout those scenes the younger man’s facial expression showed his anger towards the older man with his stern eyes and lip movement, along with his hands tightly gripped on his pencil to represent the building tension between him and the older man. Furthermore, the younger man swallowed deeply at one point and then tightened his jaw and snapped his pencil.
We considered all those scenes depicted people in distressful circumstances, which led them to feel anger over their particular ordeal.
We noted that throughout the above scenes, brief shots of the Mustang being driven were shown. Furthermore, towards the end of the ads it featured on-screen text that stated “DON’T GO QUIETLY” and ended with the Mustang being driven out of a carpark and onto a public road with the engine making a loud revving noise. We acknowledged that because of the Mustang’s design as a sports car, it emitted a loud engine revving noise upon acceleration, even when driven at low speeds. However, we considered that the Mustang was driven in an abrupt manner inside the carpark when it went round a spiral ramp and accelerated abruptly upon leaving the carpark, which emitted a loud rev. We considered that the brief shots of the Mustang shown earlier on in the ads, the abrupt driving of the vehicle towards the end of the ads along with the loud engine rev it emitted and the on-screen text “DON’T GO QUIETLY”, depicted all the characters of the ads releasing their anger whilst driving a Mustang. Furthermore, we considered that the poem recited by the voice-over further reinforced that by encouraging motorists to drive in an aggressive manner, particularly with the references to “Do not go gentle into that goodnight”, “They do not go gentle into that goodnight. “Rage. Rage, against the dying of the light”.
We therefore considered that the ads suggested that driving was a way of releasing anger, which put the driver, other motorists and pedestrians at risk. As such, we concluded that the ads encouraged unsafe driving and breached the CAP Code.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 19.2 19.2 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. (Motoring).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Ford Motor Company Ltd that their advertising must not encourage unsafe driving, including by depicting driving as a way of relieving anger.