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Car trouble: Advertising watchdog rules against JD Sports’ latest adidas ad

JD Sports

Bury sporting giant JD Sports has fallen foul of the advertising watchdog over an ad for the retailer and its Adidas range, which drew a complaint to the ASA from a London Underground passenger in June.

The poster featured an image of two individuals sitting in the driver and front passenger seats of a car. The driver had their hands on the steering wheel and was looking straight ahead in the direction of the windscreen. Below that, a second image depicted a night scene that featured a car with an individual sitting in the rear passenger window, with their torso and head outside the car. The car was shown among several groups of people who had gathered in the street.

The complainant, who believed the ad depicted dangerous driving practices, challenged whether it condoned and encouraged irresponsible driving.

JD Sports Fashion Ltd said that they did not consider the ad condoned or encouraged unsafe or inconsiderate driving practices. They highlighted that they were not involved in the creation of the images, but accepted that the models had not been wearing seatbelts. However, they believed that the car seen in the ad was stationary and that there was no indication in either image that the car was moving.

They further explained that consumers would have been aware that the ads were staged for the purpose of showcasing Adidas clothing and footwear, and that the use of the car was incidental to the image. They did not consider it was comparable to an ad for a car manufacturer, and therefore the image did not encourage consumers to drive irresponsibly nor encourage unsafe driving practice. They also highlighted that the car in the second image was parked as it did not have a driver and, therefore, the individual sitting out of the passenger window was not an unsafe driving practice.

JD said there was nothing to indicate that the same car featured in both images in the ad. They explained that, if the same car was featured, the occupants shown in the first image would have had to move to the back of the car in the second image, but that the clothing of those seen in the first image did not match that of the individuals seen in the second image. They further stated that if the images were seen collectively, then the first image would be viewed as stationary too.

Adidas UK Ltd also believed that there was no suggestion that the car was moving in the ad and that was clearly depicted in the ad, but confirmed along with OOH provider Global – which said it had received no complaints – that the image has been removed from circulation.

The ASA ruled that: “The CAP Code required that marketing communications did not condone or encourage unsafe or irresponsible driving. If it could be emulated, marketing communications must not depict a driving practice that was likely to condone or encourage a breach of those rules of the Highway Code that are legal requirements if that driving practice took place on a public road or in a public space.

The ad contained two images. The first showed two individuals sat in the front driver and passenger seat of car. We considered that the driver’s pose with two hands on the steering wheel, and with their gaze straight ahead through the windscreen in the direction of travel, gave the impression that they were driving the car and that it was in motion. This was further emphasised by the second image, which showed a car parked in a street party scene with someone sitting out of a rear passenger window with their hands on the roof. Seen within that context, we considered consumers would understand that the car seen in both images was the same, and therefore, that the ad implied the individuals in the first image were travelling to the event depicted in the second image.

We acknowledged the assertion that the first image was created to showcase the clothes and the car may not have been moving at the time the image was taken. However, we considered that the overall impression created by the ad was that the car in the first image was being driven, and because neither individual featured was wearing a seatbelt, therefore that depicted a driving practice that was a breach of the Highway Code. We concluded that in doing so the ad condoned and encouraged unsafe or irresponsible driving, and as such breached the Code.

The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Social responsibility) and 19.2 (Motoring).”

The ASA further ruled that the ad must not appear again in the form complained of and told Adidas and JD Sports to ensure that future advertising did not portray unsafe driving practices, and that ads were prepared with a sense of social responsibility.

This isn’t JD’s first run in with the ASA in 2023. In May the watchdog ruled that an Instagram ad featuring YouTube star KSI was not “obviously identifiable” as an ad. https://www.prolificnorth.co.uk/news/mixed-bag-jd-sports-ksi-ad-banned-profits-near-ps1bn/

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