Last week the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned three car adverts, one from Ford, one from Fiat and one from Nissan, all of which, it says, encouraged dangerous driving. 

The banning of the Nissan ad in particular raises an interesting question, or at least a question. The ad shows a couple on their way to an airport in their Nissan Micra, and they appear to be in a bit of a rush. They demonstrate some questionable lane discipline at the beginning, then dash into the airport. An airport worker (head down, ear defenders on) steps out in front of the car, which comes to a sudden stop thanks to its autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system activated by Nissan’s pedestrian recognition feature. No one dies and no one misses their plane.

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But the ASA ruled that the ad “created the impression that the driver was able to navigate at speed in a rushed or distracted manner and ultimately could rely on the Micra’s braking system intervening to help prevent a collision”. 

TV ads can be tricky things to get right. A lot of information has to be presented very quickly, usually in around 30 seconds. Timelines are condensed, edits are quick and the viewer can be required to pick up on sometimes subtle and transient visual cues. 

In this case the ASA concluded that Nissan got it wrong, but the ad highlights a dilemma: how do you market AEB and other advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which to an extent compensate for your customers’ incompetence and/or idiocy, without suggesting that your customers are, to an extent, incompetent idiots?

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