Campaign groups Adfree Cities and Badvertising protested outside agency The&Partnership, after Toyota adverts it created were banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on environmental grounds.
It marks the first time a car brand has been penalised for using images of nature to sell vehicles.
The campaigners, who held placards with slogans like “SUV advertising is socially irresponsible”, say that the adverts add to the “multiple harms” caused by the sale of SUV vehicles, and are calling on agencies to stop creating similar adverts – with further calls to ban the sale of SUV vehicles altogether.
They are are also calling out the&Partnership for hypocrisy, since it has taken part in actions promoting sustainability including #ChangeTheBrief. They argue that the advert undermines any positive action on the environment and that it “embarrassingly reveals the agency’s core mindset regarding nature protection”.
Adfree Cities co-director Veronica Wignall told Marketing Beat that “It’s no longer outside of the public eye that agencies like McCann, Havas and The&Partnership are promoting polluters like Aramco, Shell and Toyota, with direct consequences for human rights, public health and climate breakdown.”
“Agencies will increasingly face protests at their doors, regulatory action and a dearth of young talent if they do not put policies in place to exclude clients that are failing to align their business with credible, timely science-based targets to reduce emissions.”
“It’s 2023 – doing PR for climate-wrecking clients is not ok”, she added.
Adfree Cities and Badvertising were joined by campaigners from Mums for Lungs, Extinction Rebellion and Adblock Lambeth. Some activists dressed as animals and lay in the road covered in painted tyre tracks, as if knocked over by vehicles.
The demonstration comes as public opinion rallies against SUVs, with authorities including Edinburgh City Council considering banning them from their cities.
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The banned Toyota ads include a poster and a video shown on social media – the poster seen at a bus stop stated “Born to Roam” and featured an image which showed two SUVs driving on a rocky incline in a savannah style landscape. Around 50 identical SUVs appeared in a large park on a hilly background.
Meanwhile, a Facebook post stated from “From Active Traction Control to Hill Start Assist, Toyota Hilux, Born to Roam”, and was accompanied by a video which depicted a swarm of the cars driving through the open plain causing dust to rise.
Adfree Cities campaigner James Ward said: “This ruling spotlights the destructive role played by ad agencies in representing big polluters like Toyota”.
He continued: “The&Partnership ad other agencies are cynically using nature to promote SUVs as a deliberate tactic to distract from the fact that these monster trucks are a climate and environmental disaster. Showing SUVs in mountain ranges and forests hides the outsized impacts of these monster vehicles on air pollution in cities, carbon emissions and destruction of the natural world.”
He added: “Given their multiple harms, any and all advertising for SUVs is socially irresponsible. Agencies need to stop promoting SUVs as a matter of urgency. SUVs pose a danger to us all and must be drastically reduced.”
Mums for Lungs’ campaigner Jemima Hartshorn added: “Irresponsible advertising has helped to make the size of cars in cities grow before our eyes. But SUVs represent a serious danger. Not only do they cause higher levels of climate emissions and particulate matter pollution – which is making us all sick – they are also more likely to cause death or serious injury If they crash. We must stop this frenzied cycle of bigger cars breeding bigger cars.”
Image credit: Angela Christofilou