Toyota advert banned for showing pick-up truck convoy driving through river

A Toyota advert showing a large number of pick-up trucks driving across a river has been banned by the UK’s advertising regulator on environmental grounds because it shows the vehicles driving off-road. 

The Advertising Standards Agency ruled that the clip showed “driving regardless of its purpose, across off-road environments and natural ecosystems, which had no regard for the environmental impact of such driving”. 

The 30-second advert shows a group of Hilux vehicles driving together in a herd-like formation across a plain, then through a river bed, and finally on to a road.

The ruling marks the latest clash between carmakers — which are keen to market rugged SUV and off-road vehicles that are highly profitable — and a growing chorus of critics who say such vehicles produce more pollution, damage roads, and increase both congestion and pedestrian injuries.

Toyota argued the advert showed the capabilities of the vehicle, which is aimed at industries with a “genuine need for off-road . . . specialised workers, such as farmers, forestry workers and park rangers”. 

It also said that large numbers of vehicles together were “clearly fantastical”.

It added that “Toyota believed no reasonable viewer would have understood the ad as encouraging UK consumers to drive irresponsibly in the UK countryside and cause environmental harm”.

A complaint about the advert, made by ad agency The&Partnership, was brought by a campaign group called Adfree Cities, which claims that “advertising impacts us in many ways, consciously and unconsciously, damaging our environment and wellbeing”.

The group had complained to the ASA on the grounds that the clip “condones behaviour that was harmful to the environment”.

In its ruling, the ASA said the ad showed the vehicles driving “with dust and scree visibly disturbed”. It said the advert “had not been prepared with a sense of responsibility to society”. 

It added: “We told Toyota (GB) to ensure their future marketing communications contained nothing that was likely to encourage irresponsible behaviour towards the environment.” 

Scenes of remote or rugged driving are commonplace in adverts for off-road vehicles, irking some environmental groups. 

Jeep in the US was criticised for a 2018 advert that showed a Wrangler vehicle crossing a man-made waterway. Trout Unlimited, a fish conservation group, complained that the advert “glorified” the destruction of a potential “spawning ground” by “tearing up the gravel where they lay eggs”.

A Jaguar Land Rover ad showing a mud-splattered Land Rover Defender in a forest was originally going to be banned by the ASA, but a draft ruling was overturned by the agency’s ruling board. 

JLR previously showed the Land Rover Discovery Sport crossing a river in a UK advert, which was not banned.

However, ASA rulings are precedent-setting, meaning that future commercials showing river crossings or other off-road driving that could be viewed as destructive may fall foul of the agency’s guidelines.

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