Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority has banned a TV advert for Peugeot because it features a man reading a text message in his connected car.
The commercial, seen between 14 and 29 July 2017, showed a man driving through city streets. While he was driving, he was sent a text from a woman at a party which said “I’m bored without you!”, which he read on a built-in screen alongside the car’s dashboard. The driver appeared to react to the text by raising one hand in the air, at which point a man at the party fell into a swimming pool. The man drove on and was eventually seen driving through empty streets. Text across the screen stated “208 ALLURE PREMIUM SPECIAL EDITION … PANORAMIC GLASS ROOF – CONNECTED TECHNOLOGY – COLOUR REVERSING CAMERA”.
Five viewers challenged whether the ad was irresponsible, because it condoned or encouraged dangerous or irresponsible driving behaviour prejudicial to safety and in breach of the legal requirements of the Highway Code.
In its defence, Peugeot said the Highway Code permitted a driver to adjust music or the radio. They believed the action of the driver looking momentarily at a message on a screen in the dashboard was no worse and arguably less distracting than that. They said the act of the driver “flicking” the man at the pool party involved him taking one hand off the steering wheel but again it was only momentary and no worse than changing gear.
They said that at no point did the driver take his eyes off the road and that there were few if any other vehicles seen while he was driving. They believed he was exercising proper control and was not distracted from the road. They believed the ad was a fantastical treatment that put a humorous story to the technology being advertised and did not condone irresponsible driving.
Peugeot said the screen which displayed the text message was at an angle which avoided driver distraction and was at eye level so the driver stayed focused on controlling and driving the car.
However The ASA said it considered viewers would interpret the ad as illustrating how drivers could use technology to receive text messages and access information on a built-in screen. It noted that the Highway Code advised drivers to avoid distractions and gave “starting or adjusting any music or radio” as an example of a distraction (rule 148); that using hands-free equipment was “likely to distract your attention from the road” (rule 149); that there was “danger of driver distraction being caused by in-vehicle systems such as satellite navigation systems, congestion warning systems, PCs, multi-media, etc” and that drivers “MUST [their capitalisation] exercise proper control of your vehicle at all times”.
“We acknowledged that there was an essential need for a driver to change gear or adjust controls inside a vehicle in order to drive safely,” the ASA said in its ruling. “We considered they also needed to be aware of situations that arose within or outside the vehicle and be able to act upon them if necessary. However, while we acknowledged that there appeared to be few other vehicles on the road around the car, the driver was nevertheless seen driving for part of the time in a built-up setting where visibility was restricted. We considered that, to show a driver reading a text message (which, even at the eye level at which it was shown in the ad, would have inevitably diverted his attention from the road ahead) and then reacting to it, amounted to a distraction that would have prevented him being aware of, and/or being in control of, other actions that were necessary for safe driving.”
The advert must not be shown again in its present form.