Vauxhall's smoke flare ad escapes ban

Vauxhall has escaped a ban from the advertising watchdog despite complaints that its TV ad, which showed passengers holding flares out of car windows, encouraged dangerous and irresponsible driving.

The ad, created by McCann Erickson Communications House, was showcasing the Vauxhall Corsa brand.

The ad featured various vehicles in a city setting, being driven through empty streets.

Passengers in each of the cars were shown holding flares out of the car window to create a smoke trail.

The colour of each smoke trail corresponded with the colour of the respective car and was shown making various patterns throughout the ad. The voiceover said: "Vauxhall Corsa. Put the fun back in to driving."

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) was hit by seven complaints, complaining on two fronts –  that the ad's strapline, "Put the fun back into driving", encouraged dangerous and irresponsible driving, and that it was harmful because the complainants believed the drivers in the ad were young adults engaging in dangerous behaviour that could encourage emulation.

General Motors, which owns Vauxhall, emphasised that it had used the "Put the fun back into driving" strapline advertising its Vauxhall brand for the past 10 years, adding that the Corsa variant was "a fun car".

The company dismissed suggestions that the ad encouraged dangerous behaviour, insisting that the ad, which featured lots of bursts of paint, did not exist in the "real world".

General Motors compared its own ad to "two recent TV ads that featured paint", though it did not disclose which ads, and believed that while the other creatives were "seen to be extreme and anti-social", their own ad was acceptable.

The ASA acknowledged that passengers "holding flares out of car windows could be seen as irresponsible behaviour". However, the use of vibrant colour and its relation to fun led the ASA to believe the ad did not promote irresponsible or dangerous driving.

Regarding the ad creating dangerous situations that consumers could emulate, the ASA said: "We acknowledged that passengers holding flares out of car windows could be seen as irresponsible behaviour.

"However, we considered that most viewers would interpret this action in the context of it creating the coloured smoke that emphasised the colours the car was available in, rather than an isolated action to be emulated in real-life situations."

The ASA ruled that no further action was necessary.