The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that Jaguar Land Rover must not re-run a pair of ads in which a Land Rover's parking sensors alert the driver to reversing over the edge of a cliff.
The advertising watchdog ruled that the ads, which were live in February 2022, overstated the efficacy of Jaguar Land Rover's parking sensor tech.
Just two people complained that the ads were misleading when it came to the information that a parking sensor would be able to convey because they understood such a system could warn only of the presence of objects behind the vehicle rather than empty space.
The two ads – a longer and a cut-down version, both containing the offending scene and created by Spark22 – feature a group of Land Rovers navigating off-road environments, including sand dunes, canyons and waterfalls. Normal road features such as roundabouts and traffic lights are included, suggesting an alternative depiction of everyday roads.
The ads end as one vehicle reverses into a parking space situated on a cliffside, its parking sensor beeping away with increasing vigour as it nears the edge. The final shot shows three cars parked precariously on the precipice. "Wherever you find yourself," reads the on-screen copy. "Land Rover. Above & beyond."
Jaguar Land Rover acknowledged that parking sensors would not warn of empty space behind a vehicle but argued that the ads' side shots clearly showed that the vehicle was reversing towards a boulder that would have been detected by sensors.
Clearcast said they had advised that all sequences needed to be "accurate demonstrations of how the vehicle and the features worked", the ASA said. "They noted that rocks were shown behind the vehicle and that the technology alerted the driver to them."
The ASA said that while they considered viewers would recognise the ads showed the cars driving in extreme off-road environments, the additions of the likes of traffic lights, a roundabout and parking sign and the tagline "wherever you find yourself" would mean viewers "would see them as illustrating how the vehicles would perform in all environments, including everyday settings".
It continued: "We considered the ads focused on the reversing feature and included a scene with an in-car camera view. The camera was shown in 'on-road' mode and the sensor beeped as the vehicle approached the edge of the cliff over which the car would fall if the brakes were not applied.
"Although some small rocks were visible as the vehicle reversed, they appeared to be incidental to the scene and we considered it was not obvious that the parking sensor was reacting to the rocks rather than the edge of the cliff."
Given the ASA understood that the car's parking sensors reacted to objects behind the vehicle, rather than the empty space of a drop, and that the rocks were "not sufficiently prominent to counter that interpretation", it "concluded that the ads misleadingly represented the parking sensor feature".
The watchdog ruled the ads were misleading and must not appear again in the forms complained of.