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Red Bull ad banned for ‘unsafe message’ of seven hour driving stint

A radio ad for Red Bull has been banned for implying that it could help tired drivers avoid the need for a break.

The Ad Standards Board ruled that the ad for the caffeinated energy drink – which featured a yawning sat-nav system complaining that unlike its human driver it couldn’t drink Red Bull to stay alert at the wheel for seven hours – sent an “unsafe message”.

It was broadcast during the Easter break when a large number of people were taking lengthy holiday road trips. Safety guidelines recommend that drivers take a break every two hours.

According to one complaint: “I believe this ad is promoting the use of energy drinks over safe driving practices. Driving while tired is incredibly dangerous to the whole community and an energy drink is not sufficient to keep suitable awareness and reaction times after seven hours of driving.  The ad is suggesting the opposite and this is a very irresponsible and dangerous message.”

Another complaint stated: “The ad implies that if you consume Red Bull, you can drive for seven hours straight. This goes against all the police community messages about ‘Stop and Revive’ every two hours.”

During commercial breaks, the ad aired close to a road safety ad promoting the contradictory message of taking a break every two hours, one complaint pointed out.

Red Bull denied there was any issue with the ad, arguing that it was “spirited, fresh and cheeky”.

It argued: “A reasonable person would clearly conclude that the advertisement is not to be taken literally as a car satellite navigation system could not actually be tired.”

Red Bull added: “The satellite navigation system states that the driver has stopped to have a Red Bull, this is in line with responsible road safety messaging.”

It went on: “The satellite navigation system refers to ‘driving for seven hours’, which the human
character expresses disagreement with. This is intended to be interpreted humorously to infer
that the car satellite navigation system is mistaken – which is incongruous as it is a robot.”

Red Bull almost attempted to argue that the use of the words “seven hours”, should not be taken to mean seven hours.

It claimed: “The reference to ‘driving for seven hours’ can be interpreted as puffery inferring that the length of time is not accurate i.e ‘the car has been driving for ever and ever’.

“Moreover, the absurdist implication that a car satellite navigation is tired reinforces road
safety messages as it reminds consumers that a break is required.”

However, the ASB ruled: “The view of the majority of the board was that the suggestion of driving for seven hours was strong and that the overall impression was that the consumption of an energy drink was sufficient to overcome driver fatigue. In the Board’s view the advertisement was delivering an unsafe message that was against prevailing community standards relating to driver safety.”

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