The ad watchdog has banned a multi-award winning campaign for Volvo LifePaint – which promoted a reflective safety spray designed to increase the visibility and safety of cyclists and others on the road at night – after ruling it exaggerated the product’s performance.
The campaign, devised by Grey London, picked up awards at the 2015 Cannes Lions, as well as gongs from D&AD, the Webby Awards and the Dream Awards; it was also shortlisted for an IPA Effectiveness Awards.
The ad was actually launched in March 2015 but was only investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority after two complaints were logged in December last year. It has been running on YouTube and the Volvo website for the past two years.
The complaint suggested the ad was misleading because it showed the spray being applied to a bicycle frame, which glowed just as brightly as the clothing, bag and bike helmet it was also sprayed onto.
However, the effect had actually been achieved with a different, oil-based product designed for metal surfaces – a fact acknowledged in a disclaimer underneath the video on Volvo’s website but not on YouTube.
Volvo admitted to the ASA that LifePaint was mainly intended for textiles, and while it was possible to achieve the effect shown on a bike frame, it would not be as long-lasting.
It offered to reword the disclaimer, to make it clear that LifePaint was not primarily meant for metal, and also post this on YouTube, where the original disclaimer had not appeared.
But the ASA ruled that even if this disclaimer had been included in the video itself, the prominence the ad gave to the product being used on bike frames clearly suggested it would work just as well on these surfaces.
Ironically, if the ruling had been made before the campaign had been entered into industry awards, it would not have been eligible.
Sacré bleu, promos lift Cannes gloom