The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has recently taken decisive action against Toyota's ‘Born to Roam' advertising campaign, marking a first in its environmental ruling history. This move highlights a growing focus on environmental responsibility in the automotive advertising sector.
ASA's new focus on environmental messaging
In a significant shift, the ASA has clarified that advertisements must not encourage environmentally harmful behaviours. This decision aligns with the ASA's Climate Change and Environment Project, launched in September 2021, which aims to support the UK in achieving its climate goals by 2035.
Controversy over the Toyota ad
The controversial adverts, displayed on Facebook and at bus stops, showed Toyota's Hilux SUVs driving through both natural and urban landscapes. Toyota defended the campaign, claiming the fantastical elements, like numerous cars appearing simultaneously, suggested the ads were not to be taken literally. They also argued that the Hilux targets consumers and businesses with legitimate needs for off-road driving.
However, the ASA disagreed with this defence, noting that parts of the ad appeared realistic, potentially misleading the public into thinking off-road driving was being promoted.
ASA's decision and industry impact
The ASA concluded that the adverts essentially endorsed driving indiscriminately in natural environments, without regard for environmental impact. Consequently, they deemed the campaign irresponsible and banned its current format.
This decision is part of the ASA's broader aim to enhance public trust in advertising. The agency has launched an educational campaign to inform the public about its role in regulating adverts. This initiative has reportedly improved public trust in the advertising sector.
Toyota's response and future implications
In response to the ruling, Toyota highlighted its commitment to responsible advertising. Meanwhile, the ASA continues refining its guidelines and conducting research to ensure environmental claims in advertising are accurate and honest.
This ruling sets a precedent in the advertising industry, emphasising the growing importance of environmental considerations in marketing. It reflects an increasing expectation for brands to promote sustainability and social responsibility in their advertising strategies.