The UK advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), has taken a huge step by banning two Toyota adverts, alleging a lack of responsibility towards society's environmental concerns.
This decision marks the ASA's first rejection of SUV advertisements due to their perceived disregard for environmental implications.
Toyota SUV Models Advertisements
The prohibited adverts, part of a 2020 campaign, consisted of a poster and a social media video showcasing multiple Toyota Hilux cars navigating off-road terrains, including crossing a river.
The voiceover romanticized the scene as "one of nature's true spectacles" while depicting the vehicles in an urban setting after the off-road journey.
Adfree Cities filed the complaint against these adverts, a collective aiming to remove advertising from public spaces, in collaboration with the UK-based campaign group Badvertising.
ASA's Ruling and Reactions
ASA concluded that these adverts encouraged the use of vehicles in a manner that overlooked their impact on the environment, lacking a sense of responsibility to society.
Veronica Wignall, co-director at Adfree Cities, criticized Toyota's approach, emphasizing the disconnect between advertising SUVs in rugged environments and their predominant usage in urban areas.
She underscored the damaging implications of such advertising on nature, air quality, and city congestion, calling for a complete termination of SUV promotions.
Impact on SUV Sales and Environmental Consequences
The ban comes amidst a surge in SUV sales in the UK, accounting for nearly a third of vehicles sold.
Rising SUV popularity raises environmental concerns due to their higher carbon emissions than traditional models. This trend has led to increased carbon emissions in cars purchased in 2023 compared to those bought in 2013.
Toyota's Defense and Background
Toyota defended the adverts, asserting that the Hilux vehicle was designed for rugged environments, catering to individuals in industries like farming and forestry. They clarified that the footage was captured on private non-UK land and that the poster used computer-generated imagery (CGI), causing no discernible environmental impact.
In 2021, the ASA intended to investigate environmental advertising claims and practices. They highlighted a need for increased scrutiny of social responsibility.
The controversy around SUV adverts isn't new. Last year, the ASA drafted a ruling to ban Land Rover Defender adverts on similar social responsibility grounds, although this decision was later overturned.
Regulatory Concerns and SUV Popularity
The rise in SUV sales, constituting nearly a third of vehicles sold in the UK, poses environmental concerns due to their heavier nature compared to traditional car models.
However, Toyota highlighted its efforts over the last three decades in reducing carbon emissions and providing vehicles suitable for harsh terrains.
The ASA's ruling highlighted the need for adverts to align with responsible environmental considerations.
Despite Toyota's arguments about the context and purpose of its adverts, the authority upheld its decision, emphasizing the ads' disregard for the environmental impacts of off-road driving.
The ban on these Toyota SUV advertisements represents a growing societal concern for advertising practices that potentially endorse harmful environmental behaviors. The decision highlights a necessary shift toward advertising content that is more mindful of its impact on nature and society's well-being.