A cinema advertisement for Nissan Micra opened with a young boy lying on the ground with paint in his hair and his shopping bag contents scattered around him. The boy sits up, gathering the groceries into his bag. He is then shown sitting in the bath looking despondent while his younger sister looks on. The next scene features both the boy and girl playing video games together, both look happy. The boy is again shown walking with groceries and then in bed at night while his sister is advising him to ask “Mrs O’Reilly to get someone else”, to which he replies “because, nobody else will do it.”
The boy is then shown walking across an empty carpark with a grocery bag where is is approached by three boys. One of the boys begins to shove him, taking the milk from his groceries and knocks him to the ground. The boy is shown lying in bed while his sister tries to cheer him up. The sister is then shown looking out the window and she sees her brother being bullied by the three boys. She attempts to intervene but the boys laugh and walk away. The brother is again shown despondent, not wanting to play with his sister. As she is playing with the video game on her own, she decides that she will try to emulate the moves seen in the video game and she begins to train.
The girl is then shown as a teenager and she is still training, doing kick boxing while the boy is shown with a bloodied arm, washing his hands in a sink of bloodied water. As he brings his hands to his face he is shown to now be a teenager and has a cut on his cheek, the implication being that he is still being bullied. The girl is shown training and the boy is shown being physically attacked by the bully.
A further scene shows the teenage boy walking home with groceries and the bully waiting for him, asking him what was in the bag. The girl is looking out the window at the two boys and begins to walk away. She approaches the two boys and the bully laughs. Her brother tells her to go back inside and she hesitates for a moment, turning around to walk back but instead removes her jacket so that she is wearing her training clothing. She is shown wrapping tape around her hands and her brother smiles, while the bully looks afraid. She is shown approaching the bully. The scene then jumps to the brother and sister walking together and the brother makes a ‘karate chop’ move with his arm. They turn around in the driveway and the boy is represented as an old Nissan Micra while his sister is represented as the new Nissan Micra. A truck is shown driving away with a red car on the back of it. The red car appears dented and the bumper falls off as it is being driven away, the implication being that the bully was represented by the damaged car.
Text on screen in front of the new Nissan Micra read:
“NO MORE NICE CAR.”
“Meet the new MICRA.”
Five complaints were received about the advertisement on various grounds.
Some complainants objected to the portrayal of the bullying and how it implied that the only way to deal with it was through more violence. Some complainants also considered that the portrayal of bullying was that it was something to be ashamed of and that you shouldn’t tell anyone.
One complainant considered that the image of the boy with blood on his wrists and the bloodied water, implied that he had self-harmed.
Several complainants considered that the advertisement featured gender stereotyping as the girl was being equated to the car at the end of the advertisement.
Another complainant objected to the advertisement being shown before a 12A rated movie as children were watching and they considered that the advertisement was inappropriate and unacceptable.
The advertiser said that the advertisement was produced as part of a campaign to launch the new model Nissan Micra to the Irish market. They said that the production was intended to be viewed as part of a short film brought to viewers by Nissan Micra and other than the last scene, there were no product or brand references intended or unintended.
They said that at the time of their response, the advertisement was no longer live, however, it was available on the Nissan Ireland YouTube Channel.
They said that the advertisement only ran in cinema and on the Nissan Ireland YouTube platform. In regards to the cinema advertisement, they said that they sought and obtained CAA(1) certification, as required for all cinema advertisements and that the CAA gave them final approval for cinema exhibition with 12A, 15A, 16 and 18 films (Correspondence from the CAA forwarded by the advertiser indicated that the advertisement did not receive a general certification due to the strength and seriousness of the bullying depicted).
While they understood that the audience did not necessarily choose to watch advertisements or know the content of the advertisements, they had made a conscious decision to watch the main presentation which was of the same rating. They referred to one of the movies rated 12A that the advertisement had aired before and this movie had been rated 12A as it contained moderate violence, mild reference to drugs, moderate sex/nudity and moderate bad language. They said that admission to cinema exhibitions was controlled by means of tickets whereby the bearer must be of the required age to view the main film and have an informed decision to view that main film. They also said that the movie’s classification did not vary by the time of the day.
In regards to the advertisement airing on their YouTube channel, they said that it was supported on one day with paid advertising where it featured on the Youtube homepage for 24 hours only. They provided details of the audience characteristics for YouTube which provided viewing figures generally for YouTube. One of the figures was for an unknown age group with an audience profile of 14%. They said that if you allowed that this unknown age group was for those under 18, then the predominant age profile for YouTube was over 18’s.
In regards to the portrayal of bullying, they said that they acknowledged that the subject of bullying was a sensitive one and they respected the opinion of those who believed that such themes should not feature or associate with advertising, however, they noted that such associations were not prohibited by the Code. They considered that their portrayal was carried out in a responsible manner and that one issue around bullying was that it was often hidden away and not discussed.
They said that the advertisement did not feature any humour or satire, no exploitation of sexuality or any use or coarseness or innuendo. They acknowledged that some scenes may be found unpleasant by viewers, however, they believed that they must be viewed and considered in the light of the overall production. They said that they believed that they had behaved responsibly by seeking and approving certification to ensure that the production was shown before appropriate audiences.
In regards to the complaint that self-harm had been featured, they said that there was no self-harm depicted either intentionally or unintentionally and that this was not a theme in any way or form of the advertisement. They said that the scene referenced showed the boy tending to facial and hand wounds he had sustained. They said that the advertisement would not have received a 12A rating if it is had featured self-harm.
They said that their advertisement did not condone dangerous behaviour or unsafe practices and while the production did depict instances of bullying, they were not presented in any way that would condone or encourage bullying. They said that the bullying scenes were clearly presented in a negative light and were at odds to the values of society.
They said that a central theme of the production was the building of self-confidence and change. After witnessing the treatment of her brother, the sister starts training in Tae Kwon Do which was in the context of confidence building and self-advancement. They believed that as part of the ad’s story this should be viewed as positive and it did not imply that a person would now respond with violence rather they now had the confidence to face down a bully by being assertive.
In response to the complaints that bullying was being handled by further violence, they said that at no stage was the sister shown attacking or engaging in any violent behaviour towards the bully character. They said that it was incorrect to state that the girl had attacked the bully and this was not depicted. They said that the story was not about vengeance, but about evolving self-confidence and through her training, the girl now had the self-confidence to be assertive in the situation. They said that the advertisement was about empowerment and not being held back by preconceptions.
In regards to the complaints about equating the girl to the car, they said that this was not intended or implied and if anything, the very loose question was with the old and new versions of the Micra, in which the new model exuded self-confidence.
Finally, they said that in the early scenes in the advertisement, the brother appears to have difficulty explaining what was happening to him and he becomes withdrawn. They said that this was unfortunately the case for many victims of bullying and they believed that it would not be true to show the opposite. They referred to the end of the advertisement where the boy could be seen conversing with his sister in a happier and confident manner.
(1) The Cinema Advertising Association - The CAA Copy Panel clears commercials for exhibition in cinemas in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
Complaints Upheld in Part
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints and the advertisers’ response.
In regards to the complaints about the implication of violence being used to tackle the bullying, while the Committee noted that the girl had not been portrayed attacking the bully, the inference from the advertisement was that she had used her Tae Kwon Do skills to overcome the bully. The Committee considered that the advertisement’s message was that violence could be used to resolve issues and that it was an appropriate response to bullying. In the circumstances the Committee considered that this aspect of the advertisement was in breach of Sections 3.3 and 3.25 of the Code.
The Committee noted the complainant’s concerns, however, they did not consider that the advertisement had featured self-harming.
In regards to the complaints that the girl was being equated to the car, the Committee noted that each character was replaced at the end of the advertisement with a car and not just the girl. The Committee did not consider that the advertiser was engaging in gender stereotyping. They noted that the female character became the new model of the car, portrayed as stronger, while the brother became the older version and the bully became a damaged unknown car.
The Committee considered the content of the advertisement and noted that some scenes of bullying had been portrayed. While they acknowledged that some complainants had found the content upsetting, they did not consider that the scenes were overtly graphic in nature, and as the advertising had aired only in movies that were rated from 12A upwards and on the advertiser’s own YouTube channel, the Committee did not consider that the images depicted were inappropriate for the audiences selected.
The advertisement should not appear in its current form again.