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Volvo 'hoon' ad sparks review

The Volvo V60 ‘Panther’ commercial shows the black car demonstrating its dynamic abilities – along with its capacity to carry the big-cat pet in your household. It’s a far cry from the staid Volvo image of years ago, and certainly got our attention.

But it also got the less applauding attention – and a round of tutt-tutting – from viewers who complained to the Advertising Standards Bureau, saying the ad “unambiguously depicts behaviours which would be both illegal and dangerous on a public road”.

After taking a look, the ASB decided the footage depicted “reckless speed” and “unsafe driving”, and directed that it had to be dropped or the footage modified.

Volvo agreed to modify the advertisement, and duly took it away to have any of the bits cut out that might be deemed to alarm the complainers. In other words, the exciting bits.

“We took down the offending video and put up one that complied with the regulations,” Volvo spokesman Oliver Peagam says. “It was a version of the Panther ad, but we edited and removed the elements that were causing concern. There were cuts of sequences that showed things like the car going sideways.”

However the Panther ad, plus the recent Suzuki Swift ad that showed some equally spirited driving, were among those that have sparked a review of car advertising’s current self-regulating code.

Over the next six months, the Department of Infrastructure and Transport will examine the code, how it is interpreted and how the ASB handles complaints about car advertising.

Peagam says the code currently acknowledges that advertisers can make use of fantasy, humour and exaggeration in commercials, which can be used to produce exciting footage that fits with Volvo’s changing image.

“Volvo is unlikely to return to the staid image of previous years,” he says.  “A return to the old days doesn’t fit with the way the brand is developing and changing with new models coming through – and the new audiences and new demographic of buyers that are interested in them.”