The rules governing the way cars are advertised on TV are incredibly strict, with any hint that you might derive some sort of excitement or enjoyment from driving fiercely controlled.
Ironic, in that case, that Toyota's advert for the GT86 portraying a dude sticking it to The Man, breaking out of his dull, over regulated and artificial existence and into the real world of winding roads and fast cars has been ... banned by The Man.
Portrayed, in this instance, by the Advertising Standards Authority who responded to a flood of complaints from people claiming the ad was "irresponsible and condoned dangerous driving." We say a flood. It was actually just two. Nonetheless, the ASA upheld the complaints and scolded Toyota, telling it "not to portray speed or driving behaviour in a way that might encourage motorists to drive irresponsibly in future." If you want to feel really depressed about the (nanny) state of the world you can read the full adjudication here.
Which raises an interesting question. Just how do you advertise a performance vehicle, given the guidelines that dictate how you portray and promote cars? Probably not by hiring Mr Harris for starters.
Think about it though. The rules say you can't refer to speeds over 70mph or "demonstrate power, acceleration, handling characteristics etc except in a clear context of safety. Any references to such characteristics must not imply excitement or competitiveness." And if that wasn't strict enough "there must be no suggestion that a vehicle is to be preferred because of its power or speed. Words like 'performance' can be ambiguous and care should be taken to make the meaning clear."
OK, so you portray the car's race equivalent and tap into the age old 'race on Sunday, sell on Monday' philosophy. Not so fast, buster. "There should be no emotive references to the power of a rally car which shares the model name of a road car. Vehicles should normally be in racing livery and there must be no suggestion that standard production vehicles might be driven in a competitive way or are particularly suitable for fast driving. There should be no suggestion that competitive sport has been used in the development of increased power, speed etc in road cars (eg 'race-bred engines') but references to other improvements, such as reliability, in that context are harmless."
Might we here have one of the reasons touring car racing and rallying are a shadow of their former selves? Think on to yesterday's Time For Tea? video with all those sideways Subarus and the number of blue Imprezas with gold wheels sold to the likes of us off the back of it. If manufacturers can't trade on that why bother pumping millions into motorsport at all?
It might go some way to explaining 'the new driving' Chris was railing against in his much discussed blog yesterday too. After all, if the marketing guys aren't allowed to sell driving as fun or exciting what hope do the engineers have of making it so, even if they were allowed to.
And, in that context, the script to the Toyota ad takes on added poignancy.