Aviva ad starring David Coulthard banned for encouraging dangerous driving

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned an Aviva ad designed to attract safer drivers because it argues the 60-second spot encourages dangerous driving.

The Adam & Eve/DDB-created ad sees former Formula One driver David Coulthard don a fake beard and pretend to be a taxi driver. Sitting at the wheel of a "Dents Car" taxi, he picks up two hapless fares who have no idea that this is a set up.

Before the action proper kicks off, viewers are warned not to "attempt to recreate" the "Aviva extreme driving experiment".

Once the passengers are strapped in, Coulthard sets off on a rubber-burning series of handbrake turns, skids, near misses with other cars and jumps, before he screeches to a halt.

"That’s £53," Coulthard says to his freaked out passengers.

"Paying for other people’s bad driving, there’s no excuse for that," intones the voiceover. "At Aviva, safer drivers could save an average of £170 on our car insurance. Download the Aviva Drive app to see if you could save."

Towards the end of the ad, Coulthard reveals his true identity to the passengers, who are overjoyed.

The ad drew the ire of 58 complainants, who accused it of encouraging dangerous and irresponsible driving. Aviva said that while the full 60-second ad was no longer being broadcast, a variation of the ad was being shown, but with much of the extreme driving cut out.

The insurer also insisted that the ads were part of a broader campaign to make Britain’s roads safer, that the ad was promoting an app designed to reward responsible driving. The stunts were not intended to condone dangerous driving, it added, but to discourage it, presenting viewers with an exaggerated form of irresponsible driving.

Aviva said it had even produced a behind-the-scenes film with Coulthard explaining on camera that while there was a place for the driving depicted in the ads, that place was not on public roads.

The ASA accepted that the ad conveyed the message that safer drivers should not have to pay for other people’s bad driving, that Aviva’s app would reward safe driving and that the pre-stunt warnings in the ads

But the variety, duration and recklessness of the extreme driving scenes, including the female passenger saying "slow down" as the car reversed at an excessive speed before spinning 180 degrees and narrowly avoiding other vehicles, "overshadowed the ‘warning’ and ‘experiment’ on-screen texts at the ad’s start".

The ASA felt that "given it was performed in a regular vehicle and on public roads whilst showing other vehicles to be in motion" these "were scenes that could potentially be emulated by viewers, putting themselves and others at a significant risk of danger by driving hazardously and in an irresponsible manner".

The ads were deemed to encourage dangerous and irresponsible driving and all three executions breached the BCAP advertising code, the ASA ruled.