The Advertising Standards Board (“ASB”) has criticised an Apple Music television commercial featuring Australia singer and The Voice judge Delta Goodrem, and determined that it breached prevailing community standards about safe driving.
The ad, broadcast during the finale of The Voice, features Goodrem in the passenger seat of a convertible BMW choosing an Apple Music playlist to dance and sing to as she and the driver of the car meander along a country road. Goodrem is not visibly wearing a seatbelt and is shown, in the course of the ad, to have her arm and head hanging out of the open window of the car with the, wind whimsically blowing through her hair.
The ad sparked complaints from viewers who criticised Goodrem for appearing to not wear a seatbelt and noted that she was dangerously sticking her head and arms out of a moving vehicle, in contravention of Australian road rules.
What did Apple Music say?
Apple Music’s response was that, while it takes community standards seriously, it was confident that the ad did not include any images or representations that are inconsistent with prevailing community standards.
Apple Music nevertheless volunteered to edit the ad to:
- replace scenes where Goodrem’s arm and hand are on the car window frame; and
- insert a disclaimer into the ad stating that lap seat belts are being worn by both Goodrem and the driver.
What did the ASB say?
Section 2.6 of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics states:
Advertising or Marketing Communications shall not depict material contrary to Prevailing Community Standards on health and safety.
“Prevailing Community Standards” is a flexible category, determined by the ASB on a case by case basis.
In reviewing the ad, the ASB considered relevant laws pertaining to motor vehicles, in particular noting that it’s an offence under the Australian Road Rules to travel in a motor vehicle “with any part of the person’s body outside a window or door of the vehicle, unless the person is the driver of the vehicle and is giving a hand signal…”.
On this basis, the ASB confirmed that the ad breached Section 2.6 of the Code. The ASB further noted that Goodrem is a role model to young people and, accordingly, a depiction of her dancing and moving around in a car with no clearly visible safety belt is likely to imply to younger viewers that no seatbelt is being worn and that a relaxed attitude to safety in a moving vehicle is acceptable.
Although ASB rulings are not binding, this industry standard is taken very seriously, and the ASB has a 99% voluntary compliance rate.
While it’s reasonable to argue that most sensible adults would view it as “just an ad”, and that some creative licence was taken, advertisers must consider an ad’s audience. Given this particular ad was shown during the season finale of The Voice, to an audience containing a lot of young people (and Delta Goodrem fans), the advertiser should have considered how the ad would be viewed by that audience.
How could Apple Music have avoided this?
A quick chat at the story board stage with a lawyer specialising in marketing law would have gone a long way to avoid this situation. TVCs are inherently expensive to produce, so it’s best to ensure the concept is legally compliant before shooting commences.
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