A TV advertisement for the Peugeot 208 car has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for showing a driver reading a text message on a screen on the car’s dashboard.
In the advert, aired in July, the man received a text while he was driving through city streets which read “I’m bored without you!”. Viewers saw that it had been sent from a woman at a party. The man 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.
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.
Responding on behalf of themselves and Peugeot, advertising clearance agency Clearcast 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.
The ASA concluded that, although viewers were likely to recognize the fantastical nature of some of the scenes, ads must not condone or encourage dangerous or irresponsible driving behaviour which would breach the Highway Code.
“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,” stated the ASA. “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.”