A TV ad for Halfords, a cycling and motoring retailer, seen during January 2018, promoted their battery fitting service. The ad featured a sped-up view from the vehicle’s windscreen of a snow-covered road which suggested the vehicle was being driven at high speed around several curves and bends in the road, accompanied with engine sounds. On-screen text stated, “READY FOR QUICK GETAWAYS we fit batteries from £15. READY FOR ANYTHING Halfords for life’s journeys”.
Two complainants, who believed the ad encouraged unsafe driving practices in snowy conditions, challenged whether it was irresponsible.
Halfords Ltd said that neither they nor their advertising agency believed that the TV ad showed dangerous driving. That was because the footage had been sped up to such an extent that it was clearly not real and therefore did not show unsafe driving practices. They said the ad was clearly not demonstrating how a normal person would be driving and that the footage was sped up to coincide with the slogan, “ready for quick getaways” and was obvious puffery and exaggeration that in no way encouraged dangerous driving. Halfords said the ad encouraged customers to ensure their vehicles were properly prepared for bad driving conditions before undertaking a journey.
Clearcast said that they paid particular attention to BCAP Code rule 20.1, but felt that it was clear that the footage was sped up and that this was one of a number of ads all using the same style of sped up driving “dashcam” footage in different scenarios to sell specific items and services at Halfords. Clearcast said that all the ads showed sped-up footage, but because they were only ten seconds in duration, they had to demonstrate as much of the relevant driving conditions as possible and that was done by speeding up safe driving footage. They said the driving was clearly sped up to such a degree that made it obvious that it was sped-up footage rather than speedy driving.
The ASA understood that the ad showed sped up footage of the vehicle driving and that it was intended to encourage consumers to prepare for driving in the snowy conditions depicted. We noted that Halfords said the ad was not demonstrating how a normal person would be driving, but we considered that the type of road was recognisable as a real-life setting and therefore would be realistic to viewers.
We considered that although no other vehicles or pedestrians were shown in the ad, the vehicle was shown on what appeared to be public roads and driving along several bends and curves on the roads at high speed. Because the view of the road was only from the vehicle’s windscreen, which at times included blind bends, we considered that heightened the perception of danger. We also noted that engine sounds along with drum beats were heard throughout the ad which reinforced the impression that the vehicle was being driven at high speed.
We noted the wording which accompanied the footage was “ready for quick getaways”, which we considered implied that speed was essential, even in the weather conditions depicted in the ad. While we noted that the aim of the ad was to highlight Halfords’ battery fitting service, we considered that this message was not emphasised and was overshadowed by the visuals and sound effects, which gave the impression that speed was the main message of the ad. We also did not consider that the ten-second duration of the ad was sufficient reason for speeding up the footage to a level where we considered the driving became unsafe.
Because we considered that speed was the main message of the ad and the sped-up footage gave the impression that the vehicle was being driven in a dangerous manner, we concluded the ad encouraged irresponsible driving.
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 20.4 20.4 Motoring advertisements must not refer to speed in a way that might condone or encourage dangerous, competitive, inconsiderate or irresponsible driving or motorcycling. Factual statements about a vehicle's speed or acceleration are permissible but must not be presented as a reason for preferring the advertised vehicle. Speed or acceleration claims must not be the main selling message of an advertisement. (Motoring).
The ad must not be broadcast again its current form. We told Halfords Ltd to ensure that future ads did not portray speed or driving behaviour in a way that might encourage irresponsible driving.