Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Advertising Guidance Note No 4


  Motor vehicles are among the most potentially lethal pieces of machinery available to the public. Advertising for vehicles, fuels, accessories, motoring services, etc must therefore display a proper sense of responsibility and avoid anything which might encourage or condone dangerous or anti-social driving practices.

  These notes are intended to assist in the interpretation of Rule 21 of the ITC Code of Advertising Standards and Practice. They do not apply in the case of public service advertising concerned with road safety.


  All driving which appears to take place on public roads or in public places must comply fully with both the letter and the spirit of the Highway Code. In particular, advertisements must not feature unsafe, reckless, aggressive or competitive driving, or inconsiderate or discourteous behaviour towards other road users.


  Where the setting of an advertisement is clearly a foreign country, driving may comply with local regulations except where, in the opinion of the ITC, the behaviour shown might encourage dangerous emulation (eg motor cyclists riding without helmets). Drivers and passengers should normally be seen to be wearing seat belts, except in circumstances where the car is clearly stationary. References to, or sequences showing, driving at speeds in excess of UK limits are not acceptable.


  It may be acceptable for advertisements to use a location which is clearly and unambiguously not a public road or other public place in order to demonstrate particular features of a vehicle when this could not be adequately done within the constraints of the Highway Code. This does not preclude, for example, the responsible use of open countryside to demonstrate the capabilities of four-wheel drive vehicles but the use of off-road locations must not be a means to circumvent the spirit of these guidelines, for example by showing aggressive or competitive driving.

  Where such off-road sequences can be justified, it will not be sufficient simply, for example, to indicate at the beginning of a commercial (perhaps by means of a road-side sign) that a road has been closed to the public. The location must clearly be of a type which could not be accessible to general road users.


  Sequences which are clearly fantasy, ie which it would not be physically possible for drivers to emulate in real life, do not normally cause difficulties. Where, however, an advertisement features, however fancifully, driving behaviour which could be copied, or which might encourage other forms of unsafe or discourteous driving, the usual guidelines apply. Car chases etc are not acceptable in automotive advertising.


  Most modern vehicles are capable of speeds well in excess of the legal limits. Speed is not, however, an acceptable platform for automotive advertising and advertisements must not refer to top speed capabilities in excess of UK speed limits nor suggest or imply that speed limits may be exceeded. Nor may advertising present driving at high speeds as exciting or exhilarating, or portray driving as if it were a competitive sport. Conversely, there must be no suggestion that driving safely or cautiously is staid, dull or boring. References to acceleration and power should be made only in a safety context and should not be phrased in an emotive way (for example, by the use of phrases such as "fast driving" or "high powered"). Suggestions that a vehicle or automotive product is to be preferred solely or mainly because of superior or improved power are not acceptable.


  Sequences of motor racing or off-road rallying are acceptable provided they are clearly established as such, but must not be used to circumvent the spirit of these guidelines. Vehicles featured in such sequences should normally be in racing livery and there should be no suggestion that standard production vehicles might be suitable for racing or rallying or might be driven in a competitive way. Suggestions that competitive sport has been used in the development of increased power or speed of vehicles (eg "Race-bred engines") are not acceptable. It is, however, acceptable to refer to other characteristics, for example reliability, in this context.


  When some special feature, such as anti-lock brakes or superior manoeuvrability, is to be demonstrated, any sudden stop or manoeuvre should not be made necessary by a featured vehicle either travelling at a speed inappropriate to the circumstances or being driven in a careless or inconsiderate way. Similarly, if an accident is shown, it should not appear to be the fault of the driver of a featured vehicle and should not be presented as being of little consequence. Whilst the relative benefits of a safety feature may be claimed, there must be no suggestion that a vehicle's safety features enable it to be driven in complete safety or with total confidence in any particular circumstances, or to be driven faster or with less care than would otherwise be the case.

January 1993

Re-issued October 1995; July 1997; December 1998.

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