HOBART, Australia – Ashland Inc.s motor oil brand Valvoline has come under fire in Australia for a recent television commercial criticized as promoting reckless driving.
The Advertising Standards Bureau sided with complaints that the commercial violated a self-imposed advertising industry ban against commercials that encourage reckless driving. The ASB concluded that Valvoline should edit or stop running the commercial, which features hot-rodding cavemen.
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Valvoline is standing by its commercial, arguing that it doesnt break any rules. The United States-based company said it is altering the commercial for now but added that it has launched its own investigation in a bid to overturn the ruling.
The commercial in question, for Valvoline SynPower Engine Oil, depicts Neanderthal-looking men driving sports cars fast and repeatedly spinning their tires. The drivers transform into stylishly dressed modern humans when they step out of their cars. The commercial ends with the text Advanced engineering for a primal need. Man like horsepower, followed by the Valvoline logo.
Industry watchdog ASB received complaints after the commercial began airing during a recent holiday weekend. One complaint described the cavemens driving as hoon, an Australian term for loutish or anti-social behaviour.
Hoon driving is a serious community problem, and this ad promotes hoon driving, read the complaint, which was released by ASB without attribution. This is very irresponsible and not acceptable considering the road trauma which results from hoon driving. Im aware car companies cant use high-speed driving to promote vehicles, and this should be considered the same.
Nowhere in the advertisement are these drivers glorified or applauded, the company advised the ASB before its ruling. Rather this driving is clearly in the context of a fantasy situation, and the portrayal of the drivers as wild creatures clearly implies their behaviour is not sophisticated or desirable and definitely not to be copied.
The Board determined that the commercial breached the countrys Advertiser Code of Ethics and ordered that it be modified or discontinued. A Valvoline spokesperson said the company disagrees with the ruling and will be seeking an independent review.
We are editing the TV campaign to address the concerns the ASB recently received and our revised TVC will soon begin airing, the spokesman said.
The advertising agency that created the commercial for Valvoline, Sydneys MJW Advertising, refused to comment given that the ruling is under appeal.
Promoting speed not only violates Australian advertising rules, it is also abrades cultural sensitivity here about reckless driving. The country, which has a population of 23 million, mourns around 100 road-related fatalities a year. That number may be small compared to some other nations, but there is much sentiment here for finding ways to lower the death toll.
One response is the advertising industrys self-imposed rules against ads that promote reckless driving. The ASB recognizes that advertisers share a common interest in promoting consumer confidence and respect for advertising standards. The group is governed by a board of 20 people and is industry funded; advertisers pay a voluntary levy based on gross media expenditure. The levy is miniscule. A $1 million ad campaign would attract a levy of $350 to the body.
Australian advertisers tend to abide by ASB rulings and modify commercials deemed unsuitable for Australian viewers. Part of their motivation is a desire to avoid government intervention, which some sections of the government have agitated for in the past.