Bentley Motors forced to pull high-speed ad

Bentley Motors has been forced to pull an online advertisement, after the advertising watchdog sided with a complaint that said the commercial “glorifies speed”.

The ad, which features Bentley’s Continental GT Speed model of car, shows the car driven by former racing driver John Bowe along a section of the Northern Territory’s Stuart Highway, which has no enforced speed limit.

The ad is prefaced with a disclaimer, stating the driving was done in controlled circumstances, and emphasised Bowe’s “driving expertise and attention to safety”.

The ad clearly shows the car’s speedometer reaching speeds of over 200 kilometres an hour, vastly exceeding the maximum speed limit of 110 km/h in all other Australian states.

A complaint received by the Advertising Standards Board emphasised this, claiming the ad breaches multiple sections of the voluntary code of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI).

The voluntary code states in section twos that advertisers must ensure ads do not portray unsafe and reckless driving, driving at speeds in excess of speed limits, and driving actions that would breach any Commonwealth law.

“This behaviour is incredibly dangerous, not only to the driver and passenger, but to other road users,” said the complainant.

“It glorifies speed. It’s advertising and proving that this Bentley can do 330 km/h. Yet this speed is 3 times the maximum speed limit in all other jurisdictions.”

In response, Bentley Motors said had been given permission to conduct the driving by local authorities, and a section of the highway was closed for the ad.

“A section of the Stuart Highway was closed with the assistance of the Northern Territory Government and observed by helicopter at all times,” Bentley said.

The Board determined the ad breached two of the three suggested clauses of the FCAI by showing “excessive speed” and speeds above limits for other Australian roads, and because of this, it upheld the complaint.

Dr Lauren Rosewarne, an advertising expert and senior lecturer at Melbourne University, told SmartCompany these sorts of cases were “very clear”.

“In the code, road safety is an itemised concern, and as such it is very easy to draw a link when considering complaints,” Rosewarne says.

“Research has shown that displaying speeding in ads has a causal link to behaviour, so these complaints often get upheld.

“Speeding in ads is not like sexism or racism, it is not subjective. This is a beautiful case for the ASB to adjudicate on, as there’s almost no grey area.”

Advertisers that are trying to sell cars based on their speeds need to be careful how they stage their ad, Rosewarne says.

“A lot of car ads make it difficult to ascertain what speed the car is going at,” Rosewarne says.

“Use wide open roads, don’t show any cars near it, and definitely don’t show the speedometer.”

In response to the Ad Standards Board ruling, Bentley said would take down the complaint from the Bentley Motors YouTube Channel.

SmartCompany contacted Bentley Motors but did not receive a response prior to publication.


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Eric Newton
Eric Newton
5 years ago

Stories like this make me feel physically ill. The Advertising Standards Board should be disbanded and I don’t understand if one complaint can close down an advert like this why my complaint about the ASB can’t close it down? The Chairman of the Reserve Bank asks where the “animal spirits” have gone? Well I say there is little place in this Australia for any sort of spirit when you are dealing with this sort of crap!

5 years ago

All Bentley needs do is through in a chocolate bar, have a catch line…Bentley by Cadbury, and suddenly you can do anything you like in a car because you’re advertising chocolate.

5 years ago
Reply to  TC

Throw…read it as throw in a chocky bar