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Apia ad featuring driver selfie banned by advertising watchdog

A new ad for Apia featuring young people making life mistakes has already been banned by the advertising watchdog because it shows a driver posing for a selfie while at the wheel.

Consequences of the selfie were not serious enough for the ASB

The ad features a band of 50+ musicians looking on wryly as youngsters make the errors. It includes a car swerving because the driver is momentarily distracted by being in a photo.

However the TV ad has already generated complaints to the Ad Standards Board watchdog, which quickly moved to ban the ad.

One complainant, an unnamed road safety campaigner, argued that although the ad showed taking a selfie at the wheel as a dangerous activity, it did it in too lighthearted a manner.

The complaint said: “As a road safety advocate of many years, constantly reinforcing to young drivers the dangers of distraction, I feel that this light hearted approach to the youngsters nearly leaving the road undermines our message. I understand the message from the advert that when we are young we are more of a risk and that their insurance is for older, more experienced, drivers. However, the road safety message is the same for all groups. I feel that this advert breaches the guidelines.”

Another person who contacted the ASB threatened to take their complaint to Nine’s A Current Affair. They wrote: “This is absolutely ridiculous and I can’t believe this ad was approved. Not a good look as it is highly illegal to be doing this and then to advertise that it’s ok is breaching many road safety laws. I will be contacting A current affair if this ad isn’t removed immediately and I would like a personal apology from the company involved stating what they have done wrong and why.”

Apia, which is one of Suncorp’s insurance brands targeting the over-50s market, argued: “Apia employs a human centred design marketing approach whereby creative concepts and casting for marketing campaigns are consistently tested with real Apia customers throughout the briefing, concept and execution design process to ensure our communications will be well received and drive consideration and affinity with the Apia target market.

“The scenes in the commercial that have attract complaint, are an example of the misadventures of the under 50’s. The commercial does not seek to promote these unsafe misadventures, the scenes are designed only to highlight that due to life experience, Apia’s audience know and have learnt from these mistakes.”

Apia also pointed out that prior to broadcast the ad had gained approval via Free TV’s Commercial Advice service which offers pointers on whether commercials might fall foul of advertising or legal guidelines.

Revealing that it was a split decision, the ASB ruled: “The minority of the Board considered that the depiction of the young men in this scene is an appropriate scenario to use as it is relevant to the product and is clear in its depiction that this is something that is not encouraged. The Board noted that the driver in particular is clearly seen to be shocked by the result of momentarily losing control and he is relieved to regain control of the vehicle.

“The majority of the Board however, considered that the driving scene in comparison to the other scenarios shown in the advertisement ie: a missed relationship chance and working too much, is the only one with life threatening consequences and the possible severity of making this choice is much greater.

“In the view of the majority of the Board, the issue of driver distraction specifically related to mobile phone use is a very serious matter and the depiction of this in the current advertisement trivialises the impact that this could have on people’s lives. The Board considered that the fact that the driver was seen to “get away with it” means that he is unlikely to have learned a lesson about this action being the wrong thing to do.”

Apia told the board that it had asked its agency DDB Melbourne to re-edit the ad to feature an alternative scene which had been shot at the same time as the original, instead showing “two excitable young people going on a road trip”.

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