Volkswagen’s ad about avoiding advertising bans ironically gets banned

Volkswagen’s Too powerful for TV commercial was, apparently, too powerful for television in Australia. The humorous commercial was banned in the country for breaking advertising codes of conduct and for being “unsafe”.

Produced by agency DDB Australia, the ad highlights how Volkswagen Australia might be able to show off the Amarok V6 “legally” and without breaching any advertising codes of conduct. That, unfortunately, was not the case.

Parts of the ad features a director demonstrating how he would like the ad to turn out with miniature replicas, CGI and storyboards. In spite of this, and a disclaimer saying it’s filmed on closed road under controlled conditions, Australia’s Ad Standards cited that complainants worried it would encourage road users to attempt dangerous overtaking actions.

Volkswagen's "Too powerful for TV" ad bannd
The scene which was found to breach Australian road rules and portray unsafe driving behaviours despite the disclaimer which says “filmed on a closed road under controlled conditions”

One emotional complaint to the board stated, “In my opinion, [it’s] a stupid and thoughtless advertisement.” 

Another complaint slammed the scene portraying the Amarok overtaking two road trains, saying:

“This practice would be extremely dangerous and totally illegal under the current motoring laws in Australia”.

Volkswagen responds to getting banned from TV

In defence of the ad, Volkswagen argued that it features a “fictitious advertising director who has an unrealistic and imaginative vision for the most impressive car advertisement.” They also stated that each time the fictitious director concocts a live action sequence, it cuts away from the real world to clearly depicted imaginary scenarios. The brand also argues the slogan Too powerful for TV is deployed within that very context.

The automaker added that the spot was “self-aware” and “humorously choreographed,” while being “respectful of the industry codes.”

Even though it’s apparent that the scenarios shown in the campaign are intentionally absurd, the advertising watchdog ultimately sided with the general public. Volkswagen honoured the ruling, replying that the current 60-second advertisement has been removed, and that it will be edited to be re-aired.

Ben Welsh, chief creative officer at DDB, said in a statement, “Despite enormous efforts to abide by these advertising codes, it seems the Amarok V6 is still ‘too powerful for TV’.

“As a responsible car manufacturer, Volkswagen is committed to upholding the standards which govern what we can and can’t show on TV. We’ll be taking the ruling in our stride and assessing our current ‘Too Powerful For TV’ work, making revisions to ensure the power of the Amarok is portrayed in accordance with these regulations.”

What are your thoughts on this ad? Does it promote reckless driving? What about this whacky ad that replaces Chuck Norris with a truck?