An advertorial for a car manufacturer, seen on 24 September 2016 in a national newspaper, featured text that stated, “DRIVE TIME IS NO LONGER DOWNTIME WITH Wi-Fi CONNECTIVITY, SMARTPHONE INTEGRATED APPS AND VOICE-CONTROLLED INFOTAINMENT SYSTEMS. IN-CAR TECHNOLOGY IS TRANSFORMING THE COMMUTE … For busy executives, the car is increasingly becoming an extension of the work place [sic]. What was once a cocoon of time in limbo is being transformed into productive reclaimed time. Cleverly integrated in-car systems - such as those found in the latest Jaguar XE - let you work on the move without compromising safety … The combination of smart technology built in to the car, and vehicle optimised smartphone apps, can help … organise your next meeting and stay in touch with colleagues and family while on the move … Wi-Fi connectivity - invaluable in transforming what would otherwise be downtime in a traffic jam or long hours on a motorway … What kind of a difference does this technology make? [...]". Below this was a driver's opinion that stated, “The connected nature of the car is invaluable, he says […] I can use the phone via the car […] With my phone connected via Bluetooth I can use the apps through the car […] and if I need to do an interview while I am going somewhere I can do it on the move and don’t have to stop for it […]”. Further text in the ad stated "allows the driver to view their calendar on the infotainment system in the vehicle […] It all means that the intelligently equipped modern car can operate an extension of your office, be a workplace on the move, and turn journey time into productivity […]”.
Two complainants objected that the ad was irresponsible because it encouraged unsafe driving practices.
Jaguar Land Rover Ltd stated that the advertorial was written in conjunction with the Guardian and had not since been repeated or further distributed.
Jaguar believed that the advertorial did not encourage dangerous driving and that it had specifically stated that any of the described functions of the car should be used ‘without compromising safety’. They explained that the advertorial was generally aimed at making ‘productive use’ of time in the car (subject to the preliminary safety message) by using the available functions that enabled the driver to ‘work’ on the move via hands-free communication as the law expected. The examples given in the advertorial included organising meetings and keeping in contact with colleagues. Furthermore, they stated that the wireless technology provided ‘live’ access to safety features such as weather reports, traffic information, satellite navigation, infotainment and climate control.
Jaguar believed that accessing such features of the car via hands-free, ergonomically benefitted the driver and reduced the risk of distraction, allowing them to keep their eyes on the road and that this had been reflected in a driver’s opinion that was featured in the advertorial. Furthermore, they believed that the driver’s reference to the possibility of having an interview via a hands-free conversation in the car was an ordinary example of one of the many uses of a mobile phone.
Guardian News and Media Ltd stated that they had received one complaint regarding the advertorial, which they had responded to.
Guardian News and Media believed that the advertorial did not condone or encourage unsafe or irresponsible driving, but rather that there was an emphasis on safety. They stated that the advertorial promoted the car’s integrated in-car system that would allow drivers to “work on the move without compromising safety” and that it made clear that voice control let drivers operate the car’s features while keeping their eyes on the road.
The ASA understood that the advertorial was aimed at business executives and primarily promoted a car that included features allowing the driver to carry out work related tasks via hands-free technology and claimed this could be done ‘without compromising safety”.
We accepted that driving whilst using a hands-free mobile phone kit was not, of itself, illegal. However, we noted that the Highway Code stated that using hands-free equipment was likely to distract drivers’ attention from the road and advised that they used a voicemail facility and stopped to make or take calls. The Highway Code also advised that there was a danger of driver distraction being caused by in-vehicle systems such as satellite navigation systems, congestion warning systems, PCs and multi-media.
We understood from The Highway Code that drivers could be stopped by police if they were considered not to be in full control of a vehicle because of being distracted, which could result in a motoring offence. This also applied to vehicles stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
The advertorial featured the headline claim “DRIVE TIME IS NO LONGER DOWNTIME”. We considered readers would interpret this to mean that drivers could now perform various other tasks whilst driving.
We noted that the advertorial then featured further claims explaining in what context motorists could multi-task whilst driving the advertised vehicle and included, “For busy executives, the car is increasingly becoming an extension of the work place”, “The combination of smart technology built in to the car, and vehicle optimised smartphone apps, can help … organise your next meeting and stay in touch with colleagues and family while on the move”, “Wi-Fi connectivity - invaluable in transforming what would otherwise be downtime in a traffic jam or long hours on a motorway”, “allows the driver to view their calendar on the infotainment system in the vehicle” and “It all means that the intelligently equipped modern car can operate as an extension of your office, be a workplace on the move, and turn journey time into productivity”. Furthermore, we noted that the driver’s opinion regarding hands-free technology in a car stated, “I can use the phone via the car” and “With my phone connected via Bluetooth I can … do an interview while I am going somewhere ... do it on the move and don’t have to stop for it”.
Whilst we understood that the work related activities and communicating with family could be carried out in the car via hands-free technology, we considered that they were likely to distract a driver’s attention from the road and therefore preventing them from having full control of the vehicle. Therefore, we concluded that the advertorial was irresponsible because it was likely to encourage unsafe driving practices.
The advertorial breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility), 4.5 4.5 Marketing communications, especially those addressed to or depicting a child, must not condone or encourage an unsafe practice (see Section 5: Children). (Harm and offence) and 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 ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Jaguar Land Rover Ltd that their future advertising must not encourage drivers to carry out such tasks that were likely to distract their attention from the road, making them incapable of having full control of the vehicle.