Dangerous Cliff-Edge Scene Gets Land Rover Ads Banned in UK

The ad was banned for misleading viewers as to the safe and proper use of parking sensors.
YouTube/Land Rover

Manufacturers of off-roaders love to show off their vehicles doing what they do best. Whether it’s blasting through the desert sands or clambering over rocky outcrops, it’s all fair game when it comes to advertising. A recent Land Rover ad hoped to do just that, but ended up banned in the UK for a dangerous lack of realism, as reported by CarDealer.

The ad kicks off in a fairly straightforward manner, with Land Rover Defenders alighting from a ship, driving through town, and tearing around the desert. It was the end of the ad that drew ire, however. The final shots showed two Defenders parked up against a cliff edge, with a third reversing into place. As the driver backed up to the edge, the parking sensors beeped to indicate to the driver to stop. The Defender comes to rest, parked near the drop to the valley below.

Two complaints were submitted to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK, calling out the ad for the dangerous misleading content within. The concern was that parking sensors on modern vehicles cannot detect empty space, or a cliff edge, as shown in the video. Their ultrasonic transducers can only detect hard objects behind the vehicle. If a driver was to rely on the parking sensors when backing up to a cliff drop, they’d simply reverse right over the edge without the parking sensors making so much as a peep.

Jaguar Land Rover noted the concern around the parking sensor function, but countered that the shots in the ad ‘clearly showed it was reversing towards a boulder’ which could have triggered the sensors. Screenshots are posted below so you can judge for yourself.

Few will be surprised that the ASA did not accept this assertion. The authority responded that it was ‘not obvious’ that the sensors were responding to the rocks in the shot, which were considered incidental to the scene. While some rocks are visible on the shot of the Defender’s reversing screen, it seems unlikely that parking sensors would trigger on such small debris located close to the ground anyway.

Summing up its decision, the ASA noted that “We considered some viewers would therefore interpret that to mean that the car’s parking sensors could recognize when drivers might be reversing near a drop, which might include a smaller hill edge or a drop before water found in on-road areas, both in urban and more rural settings.”

Going on to cover Jaguar’s objections, the authority added that “Because we understood the car’s parking sensors reacted to objects behind the vehicle, rather than to empty space such as a drop, and the rocks were not sufficiently prominent to counter that interpretation, we concluded that the ads misleadingly represented the parking sensor feature.”

Misrepresentation is always looked down upon by advertising regulators, but in this case, there’s a significant safety factor to consider as well. A driver who casually watched the ad and tried to use the parking sensors on a cliff would be at risk of great injury or even death if the worst was to occur.

The ruling from the ASA means that Jaguar Land Rover cannot broadcast the ads in the UK again. The company was “very disappointed” with the decision and doubled down on its claim that “the vehicle, technology, and the scene presented is factual.”

However, rules are rules, and the company noted that “We will of course abide by their ruling which was based on only two complaints.” Not bitter at all, then.

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