Herald Sun – Wednesday 8 December 2004


Safety fears drive complaints - Car adverts exceed limits

By James Stanford


CAR companies are facing a barrage of complaints about their TV advertisements.

In the past two months, three ads from Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Holden have been pulled from TV screens for encouraging dangerous driving.

The Advertising Standards Bureau ruled against a fourth commercial featuring a Mini, but it had already finished its TV run.

The ASB has revealed 53 complaints about car commercials were lodged in the past year by just four complainants.

ASB chairman Robert Koltai said there were so many complaints from these four groups or individuals they were not included in official complaint statistics.

“Given that a few individual sources complain about virtually every television advertisement for motor vehicles, we are finding it necessary to separate them out in order to avoid giving a false impression of the extent of public concern about car advertising,” Mr Koltai said.

Car makers have developed a voluntary code of conduct that is ruled on by the ASB and all have respected its decisions.

Holden withdrew its commercial for the new SS Commodore Ute and Mercedes-Benz stopped screening its ad that featured a monk swerving in a C-Class.

Toyota withdrew an ad that showed its Camry Sportivo swerving to avoid giant witches hats that suddenly appear on the road, but has edited the commercial and put it back on air.

The main complaint centred on the swerving of the car and the fact the driver didn't indicate when moving across the road.

Toyota said: “The use of indicators was impossible in the scenario due to the imminent danger and the need to keep control of the steering wheel.”

Mercedes withdrew its monk commercial with just four days left to run in the campaign, but was incensed Pedestrian Council of Australia chairman Harold Scruby accused it of “recklessly marketing death and injury”.

The PCA has lodged more than 30 car-related complaints with the ASB in the past few years and claimed the withdrawal of the Mercedes monk advertisement as another “scalp”.

“We are very happy about that one,” Mr Scruby said from a road safety conference in Dubai.

Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman Toni Andreevski said there was nothing wrong with the commercial. “We share Harold's concern for the safety of pedestrians in Australia and there is no other company I can think of that has done more for safety advances on the road that Mercedes-Benz,” Mr Andreevski said.

“We just don't agree that this advertisement contributes to unsafe driving in any way.”

Mr Scruby admitted his organisation was focusing exclusively on car companies, even though movies and ads for other products showed unsafe behaviour.

“We are just concentrating on car companies, they have blood on their hands,” he said.

One car company source, who didn't want to be named, said lobby groups were taking over the ASB complaints system.

“Every ad that we have put to air for the last few years has been complained about,” the source said. “It only takes one person to complain and we have to put together a response and defend it which costs considerable time and money.”

Caption:  Swerving the issue: Toyota's creative witches hat ad cut no ice with a few worried watchers.

Wrong signal: no indicator use saw Camry ad changed.


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