Volkswagen pulls FCB ad after a complaint to ASA

  • Advertising
  • March 11, 2016
Volkswagen pulls FCB ad after a complaint to ASA

It’s been a fortnight of ups and downs for Volkswagen as its advertising has faced criticisms and plaudits.

Following a complaint to the ASA, Volkswagen pulled a commercial by FCB which featured Kiwi sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.

The ad was its first local campaign since the scandal broke last year and was also first piece of work FCB had done for the company.

In a statement Volkswagen said: “Volkswagen New Zealand never intended to offend viewers with our Passat Alltrack commercial, and if we have, we do apologise. While the campaign was nearing its scheduled completion, in light of the ASA complaint we did remove the commercial from broadcast on Monday 29 February.”

Due to the self-regulatory action, the ASA ruled the matter as settled.

According to the ASA G. Purches and D.M. Hughson-Smith were the complainants, with Purches saying: "The advertisement uses high profile sport people to promote bad and unsafe practices which could have led to serious injury or death, and treats those practices as a joke. Bad and unsafe practices and making light of accidents involving people should not be aired on prime time television, or for that matter on television at all at any time. I am astonished and deeply concerned about the message these advertisements convey to viewer, and to young people and boat users in particular."

​The decision lists Hughson-Smith's complaint as similar. Purches's full comment can be read below.

Volkswagen's pulled ad follows something of a recent trend, with Toyota and DB also removing ads from the air.  

The complaint must come as a blow to Volkswagen, after its New Zealand general manager Tom Ruddenklau told StopPress earlier this year that advertising would play a crucial role in winning back customers' trust.

“Brand communications are absolutely vital for re-instating what our brand stands for … In terms of the style and tone of our communications, it’s about keeping it simple and sticking to our DNA, because that’s what people know and love. And you’ve got to be careful you don’t try and reinvent yourself. You’ve got to be authentic.”

Meanwhile another of its ads has been praised at the Axis Awards, after former agency Colenso picked up a win for the VW Speed Dial ad.

The ad's long-form narrative is all about promoting safe practice through a change of driver behaviour.

An experiment between the agency and car company saw kids design speedometers which were then fitted into cars to remind parents what they had to live for when considering speed.

Full complaint by G. Purches:

“Volkswagen are running a TV advert to promote its 4-motion SUV vehicle. The advert features two high profile New Zealand (one surname is Burling) water-sport competitors in the driver and passenger seat with a third in the back, towing a vehicle up a slipway. The vehicle stops halfway up the slipway, the driver says to the rear passenger "bung", effectively ordering the the rear passenger to fit the bung in the back of the boat. The rear passenger climbs out, and slips and crashes on his back on the wet slipway on the way to the rear of the boat. The camera then pans to the driver and front seat passenger, with the latter laughing about what could have been a fatal accident as the victim was at risk of serious head injury as his head hit the slipway, and he could have also suffered spinal and other injuries. The advertisement uses high profile sport people to promote bad and unsafe practices which could have led to serious injury or death, and treats those practices as a joke. Bad and unsafe practices and making light of accidents involving people should not be aired on prime time television, or for that matter on television at all at any time. I am astonished and deeply concerned about the message these advertisements convey to viewer, and to young people and boat users in particular. The boat should have been towed further up the slipway before stopping to fit a bung to minimise risk to the person fitting the bung, and the advertisement should not promote the ridicule of people having an accident, or in any way suggest that potentially serious or even fatal accidents are in some way funny. Apart from being appalled that Volkswagen has undertaken to allow these advertisement to go to air, I am even more appalled at the the behaviour of the high profile sports people involved, in particular the front seat passenger, in that they find a situation they should have known was dangerous, as funny.”

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