A radio ad for a firm of solicitors started with the sound of a police siren, and then a worried sounding male voice stated, "How fast was I going? How many drinks have I had? I could be banned for this, I could lose my job, how will I pay the mortgage?" A second male voice then said "Good evening sir, could you switch off the ignition and step out of the car for me please?" A female voice-over then stated, "If you're facing driving related offences talk to Sarfo Solicitors, the experts in motoring law. We offer advice and representation, which may keep you on the road. Sarfosolicitorscambridge.co.uk."
The complainant objected that the ad was irresponsible, because they believed it condoned driving under the influence of alcohol and implied that those who did could avoid prosecution.
Sarfo Solicitors Ltd did not believe that the ad encouraged crime and said they were at pains to ensure that the gravity of driving offences be adequately expressed in the ad. They said the fact that such offences could result in the loss of a job, a home or a driving license was something they intended to get across in order to ensure that listeners would be clearly aware of how seriously such offences were viewed by the courts.
The RACC believed the ad did not condone or encourage dangerous driving or driving under the influence and that the ad portrayed a driver being stopped by the police and then made a conditional statement that the advertiser may be able to advise and represent drivers who were facing driving-related offences. They said that in certain driving related cases, mitigating factors served to reduce punishment for driving offences, such as where the loss of a licence could result in a loss of income or other implications that went above and beyond the immediate punishment. They believed listeners would understand this as the aim of the ad and as such, it was unlikely to be seen as condoning drinking and driving.
The ASA considered the ad implied that the male character had been stopped by the police because he may have been exceeding the speed limit and had drunk several alcoholic drinks. We considered it was clear from the ad that the character was concerned about the consequences of a potential driving offence conviction which could have resulted in the loss of a job which would have knock-on effects on other aspects of his life. Although we understood that some listeners may have found it inappropriate to suggest that individuals who had potentially drunk alcohol before driving or were potentially speeding could avoid being banned from driving through representation from Sarfo Solicitors, we noted the ad referenced the fact representation could result in clients being able to "stay on the road" but did not go so far as to suggest prosecution or punishment should, or could be avoided altogether. We therefore considered that the ad did not imply that people could drink-drive or speed with impunity and did not condone or encourage speeding or driving under the influence of alcohol.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility) and 4.9 4.9 Advertisements must not condone or encourage violence, crime, disorder or anti-social behaviour. (Harm and offence) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.