A TV ad for Suzuki, seen on 8 January 2019, promoted the Suzuki Vitara car. The ad showed a car being driven through the streets of a city, then over a bridge and into the countryside, by a man. A voice-over, using a child’s voice, stated, “I’m 36, I’m a husband, a manager, and still very good looking. In two hours I have the most important meeting of my life.”
The voice-over then stated, “But first it’s time to play”. The driver appeared to select “sport” mode and the car was shown being driven off a road and onto a dirt track while the driver laughed. The car was driven up a hill through a rocky, dusty terrain and was shown driving in a circle, where it appeared that a “doughnut” manoeuvre had been performed previously, before returning to the road. The voice-over stated, “The new Suzuki Vitara”, on-screen text stated “TIME TO PLAY”.
The complainant, who believed the ad condoned irresponsible driving, challenged whether it breached the Code
Suzuki GB plc said the ad was designed to showcase the versatility of the Suzuki Vitara as a family car with off-road capabilities. It created a playful tone rather than one that encouraged behaviour which was prejudicial to health and safety. Nothing in the ad suggested that driving safely was staid or boring.
Suzuki said the ad positioned the driver as a mature man with responsibilities, a wife, and a career, with the internal voice stating “I’m a husband, a manager … In two hours I have the most important meeting of my life”. The child-like voice-over was intended to be a reflection of the inner voice of the driver, who was enjoying the experience of driving the Suzuki Vitara. That did not suggest the car was a toy, which was demonstrated by the safe and responsible way the car was driven on the road.
Suzuki said that the BCAP Code stated that the ad must be considered as a whole and in context. During the entire section where the man was shown driving the car on the streets of a city, on an underpass and a motorway, and over a bridge, he was seen to be driving responsibly with no excessive speed, acceleration, breaking or engine noise. The car was shown being driven steadily in a straight line on the road with the driver in full control. He was shown to be considerate and clearly indicating before switching lanes and overtaking, which demonstrated and encouraged responsible driving. At the end of the ad when the car was re-joining the motorway, it was driven steadily in a straight line without excessive speed.
Suzuki pointed out that in the off-road section, the driver selected “sport” mode and was clearly shown leaving the road and driving the car off-road. The location was a quarry and bore no resemblance to a public road. The shot of the driver laughing or smiling was brief and indicated the driver’s pleasure in driving the car and enjoying the experience of driving it in “sport” mode, rather than suggesting he was driving unsafely or that he was excited by extreme manoeuvring. There were no other cars shown in the off-road area and no approaching hazards or obstacles. The car was driven steadily in a straight line whilst it was being driven uphill. The depicted acceleration, gear changes and deceleration were smooth and consistent, with no harsh braking. While the car was not driving slowly at that point during the ad but they, and Clearcast, were comfortable that the speeds depicted were within reasonable parameters. The car did not break any speed limits, nor was it travelling at speeds which were unsafe or excessive. None of the language in the ad referred to speed, acceleration or power.
Suzuki said that at the end of the off-road section, the car was shown being driven in a circle, where it appeared that a “Doughnut” manoeuvre had been performed previously. However, the driver was not shown to actually be carrying out that manoeuvre and the ad did not include the wheel screech or aggressive engine sounds usually associated with “doughnuting”. In any case, the scene was clearly off-road and there was no suggestion that “doughnuting” was being carried out on a public road.
Clearcast said that the ad was clearly a story about the excitement of driving, rather than the excitement of driving unsafely or irresponsibly. They took the view that the ad balanced the need to promote safe driving, particularly where speed was concerned, and showing driving as pleasurable and fun.
Clearcast said the voice-over established the driver as an adult with adult responsibilities. He was shown driving safely in all the scenes where the car was driving on a road, he didn’t speed or engage in unsafe manoeuvres. During the “play” sequence, the car was off-road and it was not being driven at speed or in a way that would be a danger to other passengers or pedestrians. It simply showed the driver enjoying the ability to go off-road and drive in a different way than they would normally. It did not suggest that doing this was less boring or restrictive than driving normally, but that just as one would need to take a break from adult life from time to time, the Vitara’s ‘sport’ mode allowed the driver to drive without the restrictions of the road. They said the car was not seen performing the “doughnut” manoeuvre, despite the marks in the ground, and there was no suggestion the viewers ought to attempt it themselves.
Clearcast did not feel that the child’s voice implied that the car was a toy. It was clearly a metaphor for the driver’s child self – that being an adult means having responsibilities, but also allowed you the freedom to behave playfully from time to time. Because the driver adhered to the rules of the road when he returned to the road, it was clear that the car should be driven responsibly and within the law, and the car was not a toy, but like any other vehicle.
The BCAP Code stated that ads must not condone or encourage dangerous, inconsiderate or irresponsible driving, and must not suggest that driving safely is staid or boring.
We noted that at the beginning of the ad, the car was shown being driven at a moderate speed through the empty streets of a city in a calm and sensible manner. When the driver selected “sport” mode and went off-road, the voice-over stated, “… it’s time to play” and the music became more upbeat. At that point, the car’s speed increased, but we considered that the car’s speed did not appear to be excessive, nor was the tempo of the music such that it was likely to encourage excessive speed in drivers. The ad featured the sound of tyres on gravel, but it was clear from the ad that the sound was not the result of unsafe driving, such as skidding or excessive breaking. We noted that although the terrain was rugged and rocky, viewers would recognise that the path taken by the car was off-road, seemed to be well-worn and no obstacles were encountered. We considered that the driver appeared to be in control and driving in a measured fashion throughout the ad.
Although the voice-over during the ad was a child’s voice, a man was shown to be driving the car while the voice-over stated, “I’m a husband, a manager … In two hours I have the most important meeting of my life”, which would be understood to be the responsibilities of an adult. We considered that it was clear to consumers that a grown man was driving the car and the child’s voice was a representation of the driver’s inner self, but it did not create the impression that the car was being driven in an irresponsible or childish way.
We considered that the statement “it’s time to play” suggested to viewers that driving the car was fun and enjoyable, but did not suggest that the car should be driven in a dangerous way or be used as a toy. In addition, the shot of the driver smiling was brief and we considered it did not in itself imply that the car was being driven irresponsibly nor did it suggest excitement or recklessness. While it appeared that a “doughnut” manoeuvre may have been performed, the car was not shown performing the full manoeuvre, the sequence was very brief and occurred in the off-road area. We therefore considered that the scene did not counter the overriding impression that the car was being driven responsibly.
Because we considered that the ad did not condone or encourage dangerous or irresponsible driving, we concluded that it did not breach the Code
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rule 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. (Motoring), but did not find it in breach.
No further action required.