WASHINGTON: Nissan North America and TBWA Worldwide agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges of deceptive advertising for a spot in which the Nissan Frontier truck is shown pushing a dune buggy up a hill.
The Nissan Frontier can't actually do that. Under the proposed settlements, Nissan and TBWA would be prohibited from using deceptive demonstrations in ads for pickup trucks. The agreements are subject to a comment period of more than a month.
In the 30-second ad [below], the Frontier rescues a dune buggy trapped in sand on a steep hill. The FTC described the shot as “YouTube-style,” referring to the ad looking as though someone caught the event on a smartphone's video camera.
The complaint alleged that both the truck and dune buggy were supported by cables that pulled them to the top of the hill and that the hill was depicted to appear steeper than it really is.
“Special effects in ads can be entertaining, but advertisers can't use them to misrepresent what a product can do,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Products, in a statement. “This ad made the Nissan Frontier appear capable of doing something it can't do.”
Under the proposed settlements, Nissan and TBWA cannot misrepresent any material quality or feature of a pickup truck through the depiction of a test, experiment, or demonstration, according to the FTC. However, the orders do not prohibit the use of special effects and other production techniques provided they do not misrepresent the truck's actual capabilities.
Betsy Lordan, FTC spokeswoman, said the complaint only applies to one commercial, and the federal agency would have to file separately if it considered another Nissan ad to be deceptive. However, it could affect Nissan's future advertising, she said.
The commission vote to accept the consent agreement package was 4-0, according to the FTC. The government agency will decide whether to make the proposed consent orders final on February 24, following a public comment period.
Both Nissan and TBWA released the same statement on the matter.
“[The company] takes its commitment to fair and truthful advertising seriously,” the statement read. “The company has been and remains committed to complying with the law.