The radio commercial featured a conversation between a man and a woman.
Man: See you’re back in your ‘08 Golf
Man: What happened to that brand new Auris you were driving?
Man: Wow, Ok, What, what’s wrong?
Woman: (Still crying) That Auris, it just wasn’t a Golf
Man: Well I did try to tell you.
Anncr: We all make mistakes but investing in a Volkswagen will never be one of them especially with a Volkswagen investment package which allows you to enhance your investment with exceptional finance offers on top of extended servicing and warranty and that’s not forgetting Volkswagen’s incredible resale value. You’ll never regret investing in a Golf but you’ll probably regret parting with it.
Woman: I just need to go sit in my Golf for a moment
Anncr: Volkswagen, das auto. For full terms & conditions, visit Volkswagen.ie
avelin Group complained on behalf of Toyota Ireland on three grounds. They considered
1. That the advertisement clearly inferred that buying a new Toyota to replace a second hand Golf was a mistake.
2. That it was hardly credible that a car buyer would give back a brand new Toyota that they have just purchased, in favour of an older, second hand VW golf.
3. That Volkswagen were clearly portraying the experience of owning a new Toyota as a negative one, as demonstrated by the crying female, who was clearly upset when declaring that “that Auris, it just wasn’t a Golf”.
Javelin Group considered that the advertisement was in breach of the ASAI Code.
The advertisers expressed surprise at the suggestion that they had breached the ASAI Code and said that they found the timing of this complaint rather convenient. They explained that their commercial, which was no longer on air, was in fact a response to a radio commercial which had already been broadcast on national radio by Toyota. The Toyota commercial was in fact the sole reason why the advertisers ran their commercial in the first place, which they called "Retort".
In relation to complaints 1 and 2, they said that a car purchase was a very personal and sizeable one. In fact, in most cases, it was the second largest purchase a customer would make in their lifetime. They explained that it is not unusual for someone who has purchased a new car to have regrets, a phenomenon which known as “cognitive dissonance”. They said that this behaviour was a conflicting thought process giving way to feelings of regret and dissatisfaction following a large purchase and most commonly occurs with expensive, high involvement purchases. They said that they have examples of customers who have in fact sought to get their trade in vehicle back and for example, this was one reason they offer a 21 day exchange as part of their used vehicle programme
They noted that in their response to the ASAI on Case 22099, Toyota defended their reference to the Volkswagan Golf because it “was seen as the leading car in the C car segment and was therefore not unusual for it to be used as a ‘car of reference’, to frame the type/class of vehicle”. The advertisers considered that this underpinned their point that a customer, having traded in ‘the leading car’, was highly likely to experience regret at their purchase. The commercial sought to make this point in an amusing manner as evidenced by the customer feedback they received from two members of the public.
In relation to complaint 3, they said that it was their view that the Toyota radio commercial referred to above clearly portrayed the experience of owning a Golf as a negative one. They contended that, in the first instance, there was no reason at all why Toyota should mention Golf in their communication. They believed that Toyota’s radio commercial unashamedly discredited the Volkswagen Golf. The conversation between the two characters implied that it is preferable to own an Auris rather than a Golf.
A quote from the radio commercial “… it became the deposit” clearly undermined the Golf. In light of Toyota’s unfair attack on their product and Toyota’s blatant disregard of the principles of fair competition, the advertisers said that they found themselves in a position whereby they had a responsibility to their customers, in particular to owners of 2008 Golfs, to defend the Volkswagen brand.
The advertisers said that it would never be their intention to breach any element of the Code, and they were confident that their commercial had been a fair and justified response to Toyota’s radio commercial.
The Secretariat asked the advertiser if there was any evidence, or otherwise, that consumers were likely to return new Toyotas in order to retrieve their original trade-ins. The advertisers did not provide any such additional evidence.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
The Committee noted that comparative advertising was permitted under the Code and that they could be explicit or implied and could relate to advertisers’ own products or those of their competitors (Section 2.49). They considered in this case that the reference to a competitor’s product was accompanied by the depiction of someone clearly distressed at having bought the product and by the reference to “we all make mistakes”. Whilst noting the comments in relation to ‘cognitive dissonance’, the Committee considered that the advertisement had unfairly attacked and discredited the competitor product and was in breach of Section 2.52 of the Code.
The advertisement should not run again in the same format.