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Monday, November 29, 2021

Advertising watchdog overturns Land Rover ad ban in the woods

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Environmental advocates have accused the UK advertising watchdog of bias for overturning a ruling banning advertisements for a mud-spattered Land Rover Defender SUV after previously saying it encouraged “socially irresponsible” driving that it could “cause damage to vulnerable habitats.”

The national newspaper ad featured a Defender in a forest with the headline “Life is much better without restrictions.” The text accompanying the ad said that the 4 × 4 had the “ability to go almost anywhere and do anything. If you take one for an extended test drive … a whole new world of freedom awaits you. “

The Advertising Standards Authority received 96 complaints, including from various environmental campaign groups, that the ad was socially irresponsible for encouraging and tolerating behavior that could destroy ecologically sensitive environments and was harmful to the environment.

Jaguar Land Rover, the Indian-owned automaker that builds the Defender in Slovakia, said the vehicle was rendered on an established track in a forest and focused on greater freedom after the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, not in irresponsible driving behavior.

In the draft recommendation shared with the complainants, the ASA, which in September said it would crack down on marketing that encouraged environmentally irresponsible behavior, ruled that the ad should be banned.

“The overall impression of the ad suggested that the vehicle could be driven unrestricted, even in ecologically sensitive and off-road environments, such as forests, where doing so is likely to cause damage to vegetation and vulnerable habitats,” said the ASA said.

“We consider that the ad encouraged and sanctioned the use of a vehicle in a way that was detrimental to ecologically sensitive environments and therefore socially irresponsible.”

However, final approval of a decision is given by the 12-member ASA council, eight of whom are considered “independent” from the media industry. The council decides whether or not the ads have violated the advertising rules.

Its final ruling, published on Wednesday, reversed the draft recommendation and removed the ad breaking any UK advertising rules, saying advertisers must “exercise caution” when rendering vehicles in ecologically sensitive environments such as forests.

He added that unpaved roads like the one shown in the ad were common in many rural areas, and 4 × 4 vehicles could be “vital in those communities.” “Therefore, we consider that the vehicle depicted in the advertisement was not being used irresponsibly … and that the advertisement was not socially irresponsible,” the ASA concluded. “No further action is necessary.”

Robbie Gillett of the Adfree Cities campaign, who filed a complaint about the ad, said: “The ASA board has done too narrow an assessment of this Land Rover ad and was unable to see it in a larger picture of a worsening of the climate crisis, increasing urban ownership of sport utility vehicles and lethal increases in air pollution.

The watchdog said the ASA council determined that the claims in the announcement referred to the Covid-19 restrictions, not the environment. “The council is independent, making sure our rulings are fair,” said a spokesman. “They determined that consumers would understand ‘Life is much better without restrictions’ as a catchphrase to refer to the blocking restrictions of Covid-19, rather than the environment. They also determined that … it was not clear that the vehicle was definitely driving off-road, illegally or irresponsibly. “

In a separate ruling, the ASA banned an in-app ad for a mobile game called Gold and Goblins that “trivialized and condoned the serious and sensitive issue of domestic violence.” The ad featured a video of a woman playing a game on her mobile phone, while behind her a man grabbed a chair and threw it back over her head as if to hit her with it.

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