Ads for the Toyota Hilux SUV that showed the vehicles being driven over natural terrain have been banned for encouraging off-road driving regardless of the environmental impact.
The Facebook video showed a number of the vehicles travelling in unison across a wide open plain with mountains either side and over a river bed before joining a tarmacked road.
A voiceover said, “One of nature’s true spectacles,” and “Toyota Hilux. Born to Roam,” before a final shot showed the car parked in a rocky, natural environment.
A poster, seen at a bus stop, also stated “Born to Roam”, and an image showed two SUVs driving on a rocky incline in a savannah-style landscape with around 50 identical vehicles being driven in the background.
The campaign group Adfree Cities complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the ads were irresponsible for condoning behaviour that was harmful to the environment.
Toyota said the video was filmed in Slovenia on private land with permission, and the use of multiple vehicles was “clearly fantastical” and would prevent consumers emulating the ad and driving in large numbers in the wild.
Toyota said it believed no reasonable viewer would have understood the ad as encouraging UK consumers to drive irresponsibly in the UK countryside and cause environmental harm.
The poster had been completely created with computer generated imagery (CGI) and therefore caused no damage to the natural environment.
The ASA said the video included scenes that showed a small number of cars close-up and driving realistically at speed across an untarmacked, off-road landscape, including across a river.
It said the impression given by the driving scenes and messaging in both ads “was one of driving regardless of its purpose, across off-road environments and natural ecosystems which had no regard for the environmental impact of such driving”.
The ASA said: “The ads presented and condoned the use of vehicles in a manner that disregarded their impact on nature and the environment.
“As a result, they had not been prepared with a sense of responsibility to society.”
It ruled that the ads must not appear again, adding: “We told Toyota to ensure their future marketing communications contained nothing that was likely to encourage irresponsible behaviour towards the environment.”
Veronica Wignall, co-director at Adfree Cities, said: “More and more SUVs are being sold on a false promise of rugged adventure, exploiting imagery of the natural world.
“In reality, SUVs are harming nature, polluting our air, clogging up our cities and causing tragic loss of life. This ruling is welcome but regulation of SUV adverts is not enough; the promotion of SUVs should be terminated altogether.”
A spokesperson for Toyota said: “Toyota does not condone behaviour that is harmful to the environment.
“In fact, over the course of the past three decades, not only has Toyota been one of the leaders in the automotive field in terms of carbon emissions reduction across its vehicle offering, it has shared hundreds of royalty free licences, allowing others to use its electrification technology.
“As part of its wide range of global vehicle offerings, Toyota caters for customers who require a mobility option for reliable use in the harshest of terrains – those people who operate in off-road and remote settings.
“The vehicle footage in this instance was obtained in a non-UK location, on private land, with all necessary permissions, in a non-ecologically sensitive environment. The static image used in the display ad was CGI, having no environmental impact on that land.”