Advertising Guidance Note No 4
ITC CODE OF ADVERTISING STANDARDS AND PRACTICE
RULE 21: MOTOR CARS AND DRIVING
Motor vehicles are among the most potentially
lethal pieces of machinery available to the public. Advertising
for vehicles, fuels, accessories, motoring services, etc must
therefore display a proper sense of responsibility and avoid anything
which might encourage or condone dangerous or anti-social driving
These notes are intended to assist in the interpretation
of Rule 21 of the ITC Code of Advertising Standards and Practice.
They do not apply in the case of public service advertising concerned
with road safety.
1. THE HIGHWAY
All driving which appears to take place on public
roads or in public places must comply fully with both the letter
and the spirit of the Highway Code. In particular, advertisements
must not feature unsafe, reckless, aggressive or competitive driving,
or inconsiderate or discourteous behaviour towards other road
2. FOREIGN SETTINGS
Where the setting of an advertisement is clearly
a foreign country, driving may comply with local regulations except
where, in the opinion of the ITC, the behaviour shown might encourage
dangerous emulation (eg motor cyclists riding without helmets).
Drivers and passengers should normally be seen to be wearing seat
belts, except in circumstances where the car is clearly stationary.
References to, or sequences showing, driving at speeds in excess
of UK limits are not acceptable.
It may be acceptable for advertisements to use
a location which is clearly and unambiguously not a public road
or other public place in order to demonstrate particular features
of a vehicle when this could not be adequately done within the
constraints of the Highway Code. This does not preclude, for example,
the responsible use of open countryside to demonstrate the capabilities
of four-wheel drive vehicles but the use of off-road locations
must not be a means to circumvent the spirit of these guidelines,
for example by showing aggressive or competitive driving.
Where such off-road sequences can be justified,
it will not be sufficient simply, for example, to indicate at
the beginning of a commercial (perhaps by means of a road-side
sign) that a road has been closed to the public. The location
must clearly be of a type which could not be accessible to general
Sequences which are clearly fantasy, ie which
it would not be physically possible for drivers to emulate in
real life, do not normally cause difficulties. Where, however,
an advertisement features, however fancifully, driving behaviour
which could be copied, or which might encourage other forms of
unsafe or discourteous driving, the usual guidelines apply. Car
chases etc are not acceptable in automotive advertising.
5. SPEED AND
Most modern vehicles are capable of speeds well
in excess of the legal limits. Speed is not, however, an acceptable
platform for automotive advertising and advertisements must not
refer to top speed capabilities in excess of UK speed limits nor
suggest or imply that speed limits may be exceeded. Nor may advertising
present driving at high speeds as exciting or exhilarating, or
portray driving as if it were a competitive sport. Conversely,
there must be no suggestion that driving safely or cautiously
is staid, dull or boring. References to acceleration and power
should be made only in a safety context and should not be phrased
in an emotive way (for example, by the use of phrases such as
"fast driving" or "high powered"). Suggestions
that a vehicle or automotive product is to be preferred solely
or mainly because of superior or improved power are not acceptable.
6. RACING AND
Sequences of motor racing or off-road rallying
are acceptable provided they are clearly established as such,
but must not be used to circumvent the spirit of these guidelines.
Vehicles featured in such sequences should normally be in racing
livery and there should be no suggestion that standard production
vehicles might be suitable for racing or rallying or might be
driven in a competitive way. Suggestions that competitive sport
has been used in the development of increased power or speed of
vehicles (eg "Race-bred engines") are not acceptable.
It is, however, acceptable to refer to other characteristics,
for example reliability, in this context.
When some special feature, such as anti-lock
brakes or superior manoeuvrability, is to be demonstrated, any
sudden stop or manoeuvre should not be made necessary by a featured
vehicle either travelling at a speed inappropriate to the circumstances
or being driven in a careless or inconsiderate way. Similarly,
if an accident is shown, it should not appear to be the fault
of the driver of a featured vehicle and should not be presented
as being of little consequence. Whilst the relative benefits of
a safety feature may be claimed, there must be no suggestion that
a vehicle's safety features enable it to be driven in complete
safety or with total confidence in any particular circumstances,
or to be driven faster or with less care than would otherwise
be the case.
Re-issued October 1995; July 1997; December 1998.