Nissan Scolded For Ad Showing Truck Doing The Impossible

The FTC says Nissan crossed a line in this ad showing one of its truck coming to the rescue of a stranded dune buggy.

The FTC says Nissan crossed a line in this ad showing one of its truck coming to the rescue of a stranded dune buggy.

You may remember the car ad from a couple years back in which a Nissan Frontier comes to the rescue of a stranded dune buggy, muscling up the mountain of sand and pushing the buggy over the top. The Federal Trade Commission believes that this sort of thing — showing off a feature of a vehicle that does not exist — is deceptive, and has slapped both the car company and the ad agency on the wrists over it.

The FTC announced today that it Nissan North America and ad agency TBWA Worldwide have both agreed to settle charges that the ad (which you can watch below, at least until Nissan probably has it pulled from YouTube) violated the FTC Act “by representing that the ad accurately showed the performance of an unaltered Nissan Frontier under the conditions that were depicted.”

The commercial, one of those ads that is obnoxiously shot as if to replicate a viral video posted to YouTube, starts by showing a dune buggy trying but failing to go over the crest of a steep sand dune. Then the Frontier comes speeding up from below and nudges both the buggy and itself over the top while people look on in disbelief.

The ad does begin with a microprint disclaimer reading “Fictionalization. Do Not Attempt,” but the FTC took issue with the fact that the ad makes a material misrepresentation of the truck’s capabilities.

“Special effects in ads can be entertaining, but advertisers can’t use them to misrepresent what a product can do,” explains Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This ad made the Nissan Frontier appear capable of doing something it can’t do.”

The terms of the settlement prohibit Nissan and TBWA from using deceptive demonstrations in advertisements for pickup trucks, though really this is already against the law, so they aren’t really allowed to do it with or without the settlement.

Both companies are allowed to continue using special effects and other production techniques “as long as they do not misrepresent a material quality or feature of the pickup truck.”

For what it’s worth, here is the original ad:

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