A TV ad, for the Audi Quattro, featured a voice-over which stated “Audi’s all-wheel drive system, Quattro, shrugs off the worst the winter can throw at it. But Quattro’s also rather good at dealing with soggy autumn leaves, deeper-than-you-think puddles, and that drizzle that lasts from October to, well, October …”. Accompanying footage showed the car being driven in winter conditions including snow, heavy rain, mud, deep puddles and fog.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible, because it glamourised speeding and condoned dangerous and irresponsible driving.
Volkswagen Group UK Ltd t/a Audi said the ad showed the Audi Quattro being driven in a variety of weather conditions, including snow, rain, fog, wind and sunshine. Some of those weather conditions were poor, but none were extreme, and were a reasonable representation of weather conditions experienced in the UK throughout the year. They said the key focus of the ad was to make viewers aware that the four-wheel drive Quattro technology could give drivers confidence in such weather conditions as well as in poor road conditions such as wet leaves and potholes. They said the Quattro distributed drive between the wheels according to the grip available to each wheel and was geared to provide steadiness of handling and safety for the driver in a variety of weather conditions. The technology also enabled more stability in bends, in sudden manoeuvres, and provided better control when breaking especially in hazardous conditions such as snow, ice and rain.
The complainant had highlighted a shot towards the beginning of the ad which he believed showed a driver smiling in excitement as he performed a ‘doughnut’ in snow. Audi said the shot showed the vehicle turning a corner on a snow-covered track, and that they had been careful to ensure the scene did not show churned snow or include engine noise which might suggest an aggressive manoeuvre. They said that whilst the driver was shown smiling, that did not indicate the car was being shown in the context of excitement rather than safety. They said the driver was shown enjoying the experience of driving the car safely, without any suggestion he was driving competitively or was excited by extreme manoeuvring. The scene was not filmed in such a way that would encourage any dangerous or irresponsible driving in snowy conditions.
Audi said that other scenes highlighted by the complainant were filmed within applicable speed limits and speeds had been adjusted when appropriate to take account of the conditions. There was no irresponsible depiction of, or focus on, acceleration, speed or handling in the ad. They said the ad showed safe driving and handling in the depicted conditions and did not encourage irresponsible or dangerous speeds or driving styles. They said the soundtrack did not suggest excessive speed through heavy revving or other excessive engine noise.
Clearcast said that when taken as a whole they considered that the driving sequences shown were at appropriate speeds and were responsible. In relation to the shot towards the beginning of the ad, they said the driver was smiling from pleasure rather than excitement; references to driving pleasure were permitted by the Code. They said the manoeuvre was executed off-road in deep snow and showed a controlled demonstration of the capabilities of the car. It was intended to show all four wheels applying power, hence the slow motion effect which demonstrated both front and rear wheels applying power. It demonstrated the car in the context of safety, and because it was clearly off-road it was not irresponsible.
They said a shot of the car driving through a large puddle showed it being driven at a slow speed and it was therefore not inconsiderate to other road users as no pedestrians were close by. A shot of the car driving along the motorway during the winter clearly showed that the carriageway had been treated as there was snow on either side of each lane. There were clear tyre tracks in the lane in which the car was driving which strongly implied that other motorists had preceded the car and had considered it safe to use the overtaking lane in the prevailing conditions. They considered the car was shown at an appropriate speed and did not appear to be travelling too quickly. A scene in which the car drove over a bridge was very brief and they had considered it to be at an appropriate speed for the conditions shown.
The ASA noted the ad’s voice-over focused on the capability of the Quattro four-wheel drive system to manage adverse weather and road conditions, and that scenes in the ad showed a vehicle being driven through such conditions. Whilst the ad included shots in which the car was being driven on roads at speed and one shot in which it was shown taking a corner when being driven off-road through snow, we considered the speeds did not appear to be excessive, and the handling as the car took the turn was not aggressive or dangerous. The shot of the driver smiling was brief and we considered it did not in itself reference the handling characteristics of the car in such a way as to suggest excitement. Rather, we considered the speed and handling characteristics were shown in the context of the ad’s message that the Quattro technology meant the car was better able to deal safely with difficult conditions. We considered the ad therefore did not condone or encourage unsafe or irresponsible driving and concluded it did not breach the Code.
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. (Responsible advertising), 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. 20.3 20.3 Motoring advertisements must not demonstrate power, acceleration or handling characteristics except in a clear context of safety. Reference to those characteristics must not suggest excitement, aggression or competitiveness. and 20.5 20.5 Motoring advertisements must not exaggerate the benefit of safety features to consumers or suggest that a vehicle's features enable it to be driven or ridden faster or in complete safety. (Motoring), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.