A prank insurance TV ad featuring Formula One star David Coulthard disguised as a taxi driver was meant to promote the value of safe driving.
As he skidded, swerved, spun, jumped and raced around suburban streets, the idea was that drivers would be won over by the value of safe driving.
However, insurance company Aviva seriously misunderstood the impact of the commercial.
For advertising watchdogs said the effect was actually to promote dangerous and reckless driving.
And the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has responded to 58 complaints by banning the ad from the small screen.
As Coulthard (pictured) skidded, swerved, spun, jumped and raced around suburban streets, the idea was that drivers would be won over by the value of safe driving
The decision is a huge embarrassment for the insurance company, given that the point of the commercial was to promote its Aviva Drive app that is designed to reward safe drivers with a reduction in their premiums.
The TV advert carried on screen text warning people should not try to recreate what was as an ‘extreme driving experiment’ filmed in a ‘controlled environment’.
After the racing driver revealed his true identity to the alarmed passengers at the end of the stunts, a voice-over stated: ‘Paying for other peoples’ bad driving.
‘There’s no excuse for that. At Aviva safer drivers could save an average of £170 on our car insurance. Download the Aviva Drive app to see if you could save.’
The app monitors a motorist’s driving skills and gives a score out of 10, which determines how much consumers could save on their car insurance with Aviva.
The ASA said the high speed and stunts performed by the car overshadowed the message in the warnings that appeared on screen.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has responded to 58 complaints by banning the ad from the small screen
In its defence the insurance company said the David Coulthard commercials were actually part of a broader campaign driven out of a social purpose to help make Britain’s roads safer
It said: ‘The manner in which the car was driven was extremely reckless and given it was performed in a regular vehicle and on public roads whilst showing other vehicles to be in motion, were scenes that could potentially be emulated by viewers, putting themselves and others at a significant risk of danger by driving hazardously and in an irresponsible manner.
‘Because of that, we considered that the ad had featured reckless driving behaviour on public roads and therefore concluded that the ad encouraged dangerous and irresponsible driving.’
In a ruling published today, it said: ‘The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Aviva UK Digital Ltd that their advertising must not encourage dangerous and irresponsible driving.’
In its defence the insurance company said the David Coulthard commercials were actually part of a broader campaign driven out of a social purpose to help make Britain’s roads safer.
The firm said the depiction of bad driving through an extreme taxi journey was intended to make the point that safer motorists should not have to pay for other people’s bad driving, but should be rewarded.
It insisted the stunts were not intended to encourage or condone dangerous and irresponsible driving, but to denounce and discourage it.
Aviva, which has dropped plans to show the ad again, said it was ‘disappointed’ by the ruling by the Advertising Standards Agency
The company said its own consumer research using focus groups had confirmed that people understood this message. At the same time the organisation Clearcast, which pre-vets commercials, also gave the commercial the green light.
Clearcast said it believed a reasonable viewer would understand that the entire premise of the ad was to recognise the stunts as bad driving, not to be aspired to or emulated by drivers on public roads.
Aviva, which has dropped plans to show the ad again, said it was ‘disappointed’ by the ruling.
A spokesman said: ‘Road safety is hugely important to Aviva and we have done a lot of work, particularly over the last two years, to help promote safer driving.
‘We wanted to produce an advert which presented this idea in a completely different way, but still stayed true to the principles of safer driving by encouraging people to use our app which monitors their driving skills and rewards safer motorists.
‘However, we appreciate that some viewers felt the advert may have sent out the wrong message.
‘We are absolutely committed to helping make Britain’s roads safer and we will continue to develop new initiatives with this goal in mind.’