FirstBus TV ad ruled “misleading”

In what seems a harsh judgement based on one single complaint, the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that the FirstBus TV advert broadcast last year was misleading when it showed a vehicle displaying “We love low emissions”, with text stating "Our buses produce 4.97 per cent less carbon than conventional diesel buses".

The solitary complainant – who clearly had greater knowledge of low-emission buses than most viewers of the advert – argued that it was misleading, because he understood that the Department for Transport considered a low carbon emission bus to be one that produced 30 per cent less carbon than conventional diesel buses.

FirstBus said they believed the complainant had misinterpreted the advert, because it did not refer to low emission buses specifically but to low emissions. First added that regardless of the interpretation it did not believe that the DfT's definition of low emission buses was widely known among the general public.

And Clearcast, which vetted the advert before it was aired, said it had ensured the "We love low emissions" claim was qualified by on-screen text stating how much less CO2 FirstGroup buses produced compared to conventional buses. They said that because the qualifying text appeared on-screen at the same time as the claim, no one would have been misled by the "low emissions" claim.

Despite these arguments, the ASA upheld the complaint, noting that while the DfT's definition of a low carbon bus was one produced for its own purposes, the ASA considered most viewers would expect the definition of "low emissions" in a transport advert to be in line with that used by the DfT.

Comments