Volkswagen’s ‘too powerful for TV’ ad breaches road rules and deemed unsafe by Ad Standards

Volkswagen’s “too powerful for TV” ad, which aims to show the power of the Amarok V6 without breaking any advertising codes of conduct, has been deemed as “unsafe” by Ad Standards for depicting “driving which is reckless and would breach road rules”.

Despite particular scenes in the ad being intercepted with a director who demonstrates scenes he would like to film using miniature models, rendering and storyboards, Ad Standards said the ad still depicted a “realistic image of a vehicle in a regional area overtaking a road train”.

Complaints to Ad Standards said the ad “could encourage road users to attempt dangerous overtaking actions” and it is “irresponsible advertising taken by Volkswagen”.

“This practice would be extremely dangerous as well as totally illegal under the current motoring laws in Australia,” another complaint said in regards to the scene where the Amarok is depicted overtaking two road trains.

Volkswagen responded to the complaints and defended the advertisement by stating that the ad features a “fictitious advertising director who has an unrealistic and imaginative vision for the world’s most impressive car advertisement”.

The scene which was found to breach Australian road rules and portray unsafe driving behaviours despite the disclaimer which says “filmed on a closed road under controlled conditions”


The ad was upheld despite never actually showing the vehicle overtaking the road trains

The ad, which was created by DDB Sydney, also uses the line “too powerful for TV” and is deployed within that context, Volkswagen argued.

“Every time the director concocts a live action sequence which is “too powerful”, the advertisement cuts away from the real world to what are clearly imaginary scenarios.”

The car manufacturer says the ad is “self-aware, humorously choreographed, and fanciful, while at the same time respectful of the industry codes, which regulate advertising content”.

In its response Volkswagen also acknowledged the overtaking scene in question stating it wasn’t intended to be realistic and notes the actual overtaking scene is not shown in the ad.

“But rather by way of animated storyboards and the live action footage is minimal and does not show any content which is unsafe or contrary to road safety laws (for example, the driver uses the vehicle’s indicator light to commence the overtaking movement in a safe and controlled manner over broken lines),” Volkswagen added.

Considering both the complaints and Volkswagen’s response, the ad watchdog said although the ad uses a disclaimer, it doesn’t justify the inclusion of any unsafe driving and the ad depicts a realistic image of a car overtaking road trains.

“Although the advertisement had fantastical elements, the depiction of the vehicle starting to overtake the road trains was a realistic scenario that would constitute unsafe and reckless driving. Further, the depiction of the driver choosing to leave the road and overtake both trucks on the shoulder of the road depicts driving which is reckless and would breach road rules,” the board said. upholding the complaint.

Volkswagen said the 60 second ad has been discontinued and all other advertisements will be modified and re-appear on air on November 5.

“We regret if any members of the public were offended by any content in the advertisement and take this opportunity to assure the Ad Standards community panel and the public that this was not our intention,” the car manufacturer concluded.

In response to the ruling, Ben Welsh, chief creative officer at DDB, said in a statement to Mumbrella: “With the class-leading power of the new Amarok V6 and strict Australian advertising guidelines, we knew we’d have to think non-traditionally about how we demonstrate the power of this ute.

“Despite enormous efforts to abide by these advertising codes, it seems the Amarok V6 is still ‘too powerful for TV’.

“As a responsible car manufacturer, Volkswagen is committed to upholding the standards which govern what we can and can’t show on TV. We’ll be taking the ruling in our stride and assessing our current ‘Too Powerful For TV’ work, making revisions to ensure the power of the Amarok is portrayed in accordance with these regulations.”


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