December 23, 2013

ASA Puts the Brakes on BMW's MINI Advertising

Seller Beware: Consumer Protection Insights for Industry

BMW UK Ltd (BMW), trading as MINI UK, has been reprimanded by the UK's advertising regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), for encouraging dangerous driving in a recent roadside poster for their MINI car located beside the A532 road in Crewe (Cheshire, UK).

The large poster (just over 12 metres wide) showed a MINI car with blurred red and white lines trailing from behind, with the text "THE A532. IT'S MILES MORE FUN IN A MINI."

A single complaint was made to the ASA that the poster was irresponsible and harmful as it depicted and encouraged dangerous driving.

In response, BMW said that the visual showed the car being driven appropriately and that the red and white lines, emanating from the cars’ lights in the night time setting, demonstrated the long distances that the car could be driven, rather than promoting excessive speed or unsafe driving. They said that the poster communicated the fun that could be had driving a MINI on ordinary local roads and the word "fun" referenced their brand values and how it felt to drive a MINI.

The ASA disagreed. It acknowledged that the red and white lines appeared to emanate from the car's rear lights, but noted there were also a large number of other coloured lights that gave an impression of a fast moving vehicle and this was exaggerated by the wide format of the poster. Examining the poster as a whole, it was the ASA's opinion that the text (the word "fun") together with the image of a car moving at excessive speed in a built up environment was "irresponsible" and "likely to encourage dangerous driving".

The ASA ruled that the poster must not appear again its current form and that speed should not be the focus of BMW's advertising methods.

This finding highlights the need to scrutinise how advertising is perceived by viewers to confirm it is in line with the desired message and, more importantly, the UK advertising codes. Still images can have as much of an effect as video footage and care should be taken to ensure compliance.

© Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP 2013 All Rights Reserved. This blog post is intended to be a general summary of the law and does not constitute legal advice. You should consult with counsel to determine applicable legal requirements in a specific fact situation.

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