Toyota animated speeding car banned by ad watchdog

Toyota has been banned from running an online animated ad that features a speeding car being followed by a police helicopter, before bursting through a glass barrier.

The ad, created by Saatchi & Saatchi, ran earlier this year and attracted a number of complaints to the Advertising Standard Association (ASA), arguing that the ad was irresponsible and condoned dangerous driving.

The ad promoted the Toyota GT86 model and was set in an animated virtual world, in which a male character described not being real and how he had no feeling, until he drove the GT86.

The car was shown being driven at speed, followed by a police helicopter, and being chased through narrow virtual streets. The car was then shown escaping the city and following signs to "the end of the world". The vehicle burst through a glass barrier onto a real road.

Toyota claimed in its defence of the ad that it did not condone or encourage unsafe or irresponsible driving, and that when designing the ad, it had paid particular attention to the Highway Code and the CAP Code.

In particular, Toyota said the ad was clearly set in an animated, artificial and fantasy world, which therefore did not reflect reality. Furthermore, Toyota argued that the driver was never shown to be out of control of the car and his behaviour did not endanger himself or others.

Toyota also made a point of stating that the two complaints were the only ones they had received about the ad, which had been viewed by 1.3 million people on YouTube and a shorter version which had been broadcast on TV.

Google, the owner of YouTube, said the ad did not breach any of its internal policies and asserted that it was the responsibility of advertisers to ensure that its ads obeyed applicable and the CAP Code.

In making its ruling, the ASA acknowledged the ad was set in a fantasy world, but ruled that the roads, public spaces and car features in the ad were recognisable as such and were not significantly different from those in the real world.

It said the driving features and in particular the speeds shows, could thus be emulated on real roads.

The ASA also considered that the highly stylised nature of the ad glamorised the reckless manner in which the car was driven.

Overall, the ASA said the ad must not appear again in its current form and it ruled that Toyota should not portray speed or driving behaviour in a way that might encourage motorists to drive irresponsibly in future.