Ola ad banned following independent review

A breach of the NSW road rules has seen a campaign for ride-share company Ola get pulled by Ad Standards, following an independent review.

The ad was first brought to the attention of the watchdog in January, with a complaint pointing out that the driver’s choice of places to stop and pick up passengers was against NSW road rules.

Three points in the TVC were identified, with the first the car stopping in the middle of the road to pick up a passenger, and the other two where the vehicle stopped in relation to a T-intersection.

As the TVC was shot in NSW, it falls under Section 189 of the state’s road rules which states that ‘a driver must not stop on a road if to do so would put any part of the vehicle between a vehicle that is parked on the road and the centre of the road’. Section 170 states that a vehicle should not park within ten metres of a T-intersection without traffic lights, unless it is on the continuing side of the road.

But initially, the breach of road rules was dismissed by the Ad Standard’s panel, as it ‘depicted a specific action or activity’ which might be in breach of the law, but would not automatically be in breach of the Code.

As the same actor was shown entering and exiting opposite doors of the car on empty roads, the panel concluded that the ‘exaggerated and unrealistic’ nature of the ad meant the road rule breach was not a concern. The ad was handed to an independent review following concerns that the road rule infringements had a wider implication on community health and safety.

In response to the original allegations by the complaint, that the ad ‘normalises dangerous driver behaviour’, Ola wholeheartedly disagreed.

“The allegation that the “ad attempts to ‘legalise and normalise’ the appalling and dangerous driver behaviour” is, to put it mildly, unmaintainable and, in our view, not a conclusion that one could reasonably reach whilst or after watching the TVC,” Ola responded.

“Similarly, likening the mild, calm, non-controversial TVC to “riding down a hill in a wheelie bin” and “hiding in a chest freezer” is, in our view, an inappropriate and unreasonable comparison.”

The reviewer refuted the panel’s claims that the stylistic choices in the ad made the scenes of parking unrealistic and exaggerated and questioned whether the panel had referred to the information provided by Ola that detailed safety precautions put in place when the shoot took place, including the streets involved being closed. It ruled that the car was clearly in breach of NSW road rules and critiqued the panel’s process in overlooking this.

“The panel should have given appropriate consideration to the other road rules cited by the complainant as the basis for his contention that the advertisement breached those road rules and consequently breached Section 2.6 of the Code… this represented a substantial flaw in the process by which the determination was made,” the reviewer wrote.

The resulting decision saw the campaign pulled due to its breach of the rules.

Ola disagreed with the ruling, calling it ‘erroneous’.

“We do not agree with the independent reviewer’s comments and reasoning. Indeed, many aspects of it appear to be patently and cardinally erroneous, in our view. Notwithstanding, this may not be the most appropriate time to debate such views,” responded Ola.

“We advise that the TV commercial in question is not currently on air and understand that it may be modified, if it is to be aired at a future date, or replaced. We otherwise reserve all our rights in relation to this matter.”


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