Toyota ad banned by watchdog for ‘condoning driving with no regard for environmental impact’

  • Ads for Toyota Hilux pick-up truck banned over environmental concerns
  • The video and poster showed groups of Hiluxes being driven across various natural environments
  • Advertising Standards Authority say campaign ‘condoned driving with no regard for environmental impact’

Time 9:04 am, November 22, 2023

A Toyota advert which ‘condoned driving with no regard for environmental impact’ has been banned, following a complaint by activists.

The social media ad showed a several Hilux pick-up trucks travelling in unison across a wide open plain with mountains either side. The convoy then passes over a river bed before joining a tarmacked road.

A voiceover said: ‘One of nature’s true spectacles’ and ‘Toyota Hilux. Born to Roam’ before a final shot showed the car parked in a rocky, natural environment.

The campaign also included bus stop posters which showed the trucks being driven across a Savannah-style landscape, below the words ‘Born to Roam’.

The ads let to a complaint by campaign group, Adfree Cities, which aims to ‘challenge corporate outdoor advertising and reclaim public space for art, community and nature’.

The group lodged its objections with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on the grounds that the ads were irresponsible for condoning behaviour that was harmful to the environment.

Toyota said the video was filmed in Slovenia on private land with permission, and the use of multiple vehicles was ‘clearly fantastical’.

The Japanese brand also said it believed no reasonable viewer would have understood the ad as encouraging UK consumers to drive irresponsibly in the UK countryside and cause environmental harm.

It also told an ASA enquiry that the poster had been created using CGI and and therefore caused no damage to the natural environment.

However, the watchdog ruled that the impression given ‘was one of driving regardless of its purpose, across off-road environments and natural ecosystems which had no regard for the environmental impact of such driving’.

In its ruling the ASA said: ‘The ads presented and condoned the use of vehicles in a manner that disregarded their impact on nature and the environment.

‘As a result, they had not been prepared with a sense of responsibility to society.’

It added: ‘We told Toyota to ensure their future marketing communications contained nothing that was likely to encourage irresponsible behaviour towards the environment.’

The verdict was welcomed by Adfree Citites, which is now calling for tighter regulation on SUV advertisement.

Veronica Wignall, co-director at Adfree Cities, said: ‘More and more SUVs are being sold on a false promise of rugged adventure, exploiting imagery of the natural world.

‘In reality, SUVs are harming nature, polluting our air, clogging up our cities and causing tragic loss of life.

‘This ruling is welcome but regulation of SUV adverts is not enough; the promotion of SUVs should be terminated altogether.’

A spokesperson for Toyota added: ‘Toyota does not condone behaviour that is harmful to the environment.

‘In fact, over the course of the past three decades, not only has Toyota been one of the leaders in the automotive field in terms of carbon emissions reduction across its vehicle offering, it has shared hundreds of royalty free licences, allowing others to use its electrification technology.

‘As part of its wide range of global vehicle offerings, Toyota caters for customers who require a mobility option for reliable use in the harshest of terrains – those people who operate in off-road and remote settings.

‘The vehicle footage in this instance was obtained in a non-UK location, on private land, with all necessary permissions, in a non-ecologically sensitive environment.

‘The static image used in the display ad was CGI, having no environmental impact on that land.’

Jack Williams's avatar

Jack joined the Car Dealer team in 2021 as a staff writer. He previously worked as a national newspaper journalist for BNPS Press Agency. He has provided news and motoring stories for a number of national publications including The Sun, The Times and The Daily Mirror.

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