BMW ad banned over ‘irresponsible revving’ complaint

A radio ad for a BMW car has been banned after a listener complained that sound of the engine revving was “irresponsible”.

The ad for the BMW M brand, heard in March, opened with the revving sound of a car engine before a voice-over said: “We could use big words like striking, muscular or captivating to tell you what it looks like, or use an alluring combination of colourful words to describe exactly what it feels like. But all you really want to hear is this”, at which point the louder sound of a car engine revving was heard.

A listener complained that the advert and the car engine sounds were irresponsible.

BMW said that BMW M was their sub brand for their performance and sport car range, and the engine would make a different sound to that of a non-performance car.

They said the total engine noise lasted for less than a second of the 30-second ad and it was apparent that the sound was recorded when the vehicle was static and was not suggesting that the car was being driven at speed or with rapid acceleration.

Upholding the complaint, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said rules stated that motoring ads must not demonstrate power, acceleration or handling characteristics, except in a clear context of safety.

The code also stated that ads must not refer to speed in a way that might condone or encourage dangerous, competitive, inconsiderate or irresponsible driving and that speed or acceleration claims must not be the main selling message of an ad.

The ASA said it did not consider that the ad made speed and acceleration the main message of the ad or referenced speed in a way that would encourage dangerous or irresponsible driving.

“However, because the ad demonstrated the power of the car, not in the clear context of safety, and in a way that suggested excitement, we concluded it was in breach of the code.”

It ruled that the ad must not be broadcast again in its current form, adding: “We told BMW UK to ensure that future ads did not demonstrate power – except in the clear context of safety – or in a way that suggested excitement.”

A BMW spokeswoman said: “BMW UK accepts the decision of the ASA and this advert will not be broadcast again.”