Strap in for some useful advice on motoring ads

Nov 9th '23

With Road Safety Week (19-25 November) approaching – an annual event coordinated by the charity Brake to promote safe and healthy journeys and help with their work to prevent road deaths and injuries – it seemed like a good time to share some pointers on how to ensure your motoring ads stay in the right lane.


  • Give way to the Ad Rules

Ads that feature motoring are subject to Section 19 of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code, and road safety is key to these rules. Rule 19.2 states that advertising should not “condone or encourage unsafe or irresponsible driving” or depict behaviour that, if emulated, could result in a breach of the legal requirements in the Highway Code.  Marketers must therefore ensure that their ads are responsible when it comes to road safety, which includes demonstrating sensible driving.


Sharply overtaking, driving competitively and weaving in and out of lanes, even in a somewhat fantastical context, can risk being considered a breach of the rules. Seatbelts should be shown being worn, even when you’re not advertising a car. Ads also shouldn’t condone or encourage unsafe or irresponsible driving in their copy by emphasising attributes in a way that could suggest that drivers of those vehicles could push the boundaries of safe and responsible driving.


Presenting vehicles being driven in a safe and controlled manner, at a reasonable speed is the safest way to go.


  • Keep a safe distance from making speed your focus

Marketers should also be careful of the context of any claims about speed or acceleration to avoid falling foul of Rule 19.4. As speed should not be the main message of an ad, care must be taken with any references to quick acceleration, such as ‘0-60’ type claims, particularly where the context is likely to make this the central message of the ad. Indications of excessive speed such as blurred lights or other blurred images and dust clouds should also be avoided.


  • Exercise proper control and safe handling

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t focus on some of a car’s dynamic qualities in a way that does not condone or encourage emulation. For example, using a scenario that is very clearly fantastical, to the point that viewers are unlikely to see it as an actual demonstration of the vehicle’s acceleration, speed or handling – or using scenarios that are highly unlikely to be encountered in everyday driving – is more likely to be considered acceptable. This can, however, be a difficult line to tread.


  • Watch out for hazards

Always exercise caution when showing phones or other devices in motoring ads. Whilst hands-free equipment is not explicitly prohibited, hands-free calls or devices can nevertheless be distracting and could encourage unsafe driving practices.


  • Cruising to compliance

To paraphrase the Highway Code, compliant marketing needs concentration.  Always exercise proper control of your advertising. Also, for some (not irritating) back-seat driving on your non-broadcast ads, the CAP Copy Advice team are happy to oblige.


Source: CAP


Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.


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