The Sydney Morning Herald Saturday 4 September 2004


Safety campaigners ping Holden ad

By Joshua Dowling, Motoring Editor

Holden is under fire again from child safety advocates for a racy TV commercial, but it would appear it does not breach the car industry's advertising code of conduct.


The ad, first aired during the Olympics, depicts a father showing off his new Commodore while his son sits in a child restraint in the back. As the car accelerates quickly, the man and the boy grin as the engine sounds like it is approaching maximum revs.

"It's irresponsible," said Danny Cass, a pediatric trauma surgeon at the Children's Hospital at Westmead. "Who on earth could think it's appropriate to have little kids think it's fun when dad is revving the engine and accelerating aggressively? [The ad] sends the wrong message to young parents."


Holden's spokesman, Jason Laird, said: "A kid smiling doesn't make for a traffic fine. The car is not speeding. We have adhered to the code of conduct and we're disappointed that some people have applied their own perspective to the ad. It's a father and his young son on a country road enjoying the experience. The last time I checked ... that was not illegal."


Dr Cass said Holden was not alone in glorifying speed in advertising, and he and other safety advocates believe the car industry's self-imposed code is being flaunted. Mitsubishi was recently criticised for an ad with three high-powered sedans racing on a dirt road. The ad was withdrawn, but re-appeared with a disclaimer.


The Pedestrian Council of Australia said the Holden ad showed that the code was a farce. "This is a perfect example of subliminal effects being used to get around the code," said the council's chairman, Harold Scruby. "The car is shown being driven legally but they've overlayed a soundtrack of a vehicle being driven fast."


Mr Scruby said the code and the Advertising Standards Bureau's complaints process needed to be reviewed. "It takes four to six weeks for a complaint to be processed. By then the ad has run its course, so car makers don't care if the ad is taken off air. It's a farce.


"We need to stop ads like this getting to air ... I would rather see voluntary enforcement, but if this continues we will push for car ads to be vetted by an independent road safety panel."


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