The Toyota GT86 ad appeared during a third-party video on YouTube and was viewed by 1.3 million people. It was set in an animated world and featured a man who described how he did not feel real and had no feeling until he drove the car.
The GT86 was then shown being chased by a police helicopter, driving at speed through narrow streets before escaping the city and following signs to “the end of the world” by bursting through a glass barrier back into the “real world”.
The campaign led to complaints that the ad was irresponsible and condoned dangerous driving.
In response, Toyota said the ad was clearly set in a fantasy environment, highlighted by the fact that cars were capable of driving themselves in the spot. It also stated the ad did not portray normal driving circumstances so it was impossible to emulate.
The car manufacturer added that it had conducted “wide-ranging” consumer research prior to producing the ad, which included focus groups of sports car owners and other vehicles, to ensure they understood the key messages of the ad.
Google, which owns YouTube, said the ad did not breach any of its internal policies – although it asserted that it is the responsibility of advertisers to ensure their ads obey the CAP Code and other applicable laws.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) noted that a number of scenes depicted the character driving at speed in a “reckless” manner – emphasised by the reactions of bystanders as he drove past them and the way in which he swerved and dodged other drivers and obstacles.
It also considered that while the ad was set in a fantasy environment, the type of driving could be emulated on real roads – and the highly stylised nature of the ad could serve to “glamorise” the “reckless” manner in which the car was being driven.
The ASA ruled that the ad must not appear again and has told Toyota not to portray speed or driving behaviour in a way that might encourage motorists to drive irresponsibly in future.
Meanwhile, Toyota has also announced a recall affecting more than 2.7 million vehicles worldwide due to problems with the steering wheel. Affected models include Corolla and Prius cars. The Japanese car marque announced its largest ever recall last month, affecting 7 million vehicles with faulty electric windows.