Home » This Banned Toyota Truck Ad Is Another Strike In The War Against Off-Roading

This Banned Toyota Truck Ad Is Another Strike In The War Against Off-Roading

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The world appears to be at war with off-roading. Some people enjoy the activity for the scenery, the camping, and the ability to get closer to nature, while others appreciate the challenge of a tough trail or a difficult obstacle, perhaps to see what their favorite machine can do. Still, as much as it can be a wholesome pursuit, off-roading is starting to draw negative attention, with concerns around the environment increasingly raised against the practice.

The situation has come to a head in the United Kingdom, where a relatively straightforward Toyota advertisement ended up banned from the airwaves for its portrayal of off-road driving. Produced by Papaya Films UK and titled Born to Roam, the 30-second spot starts off in grassland, with a group of Toyota Hilux pickups driving over the terrain. The trucks are then shown crossing a small river, before then driving through an urban scene.

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The ad shows nothing you haven’t seen before; namely, a bunch of off-road vehicles doing some relatively basic driving off the beaten path. As reported by The Financial Times, however, the Advertising Standards Authority drew great issue with the advertisement, publishing a ruling against the automaker.

The clip was cited for showing “across off-road environments and natural ecosystems, which had no regard for the environmental impact of such driving.” Furthermore, the ad was said to show the vehicles “travelled across untarmacked plains and through rivers, with dust and scree visibly disturbed.” The authority ultimately ruled that “The ads presented and condoned the use of vehicles in a manner that disregarded their impact on nature and the environment,” and that they “had not been prepared with a sense of responsibility to society.” The ad was investigated after a solitary complaint by a UK-based group called Adfree Cities, on the basis that the clip “condones behavior that was harmful to the environment.”

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It’s a strange and spurious argument to say that the ad encourages reckless driving with no regard for the environment. On Toyota’s part, the automaker claimed that the vehicles were not shown driving in ecologically sensitive environments, nor in those featuring wildlife. Furthermore, the ad was intended to demonstrate the vehicle for customers like farmers, forestry workers, and park rangers, for whom such off-road driving is routine. Toyota claimed that the ad, shot on private land in Slovenia, was an appropriate way to demonstrate the off-road capabilities of the vehicle, and that it shouldn’t need to depict specialized workers or specific work scenarios when advertising in this way.

Most enthusiasts who see this ad will wonder what the problem was. Regardless, the authority didn’t see it that way, and required Toyota to pull the Born To Roam materials display, stating they were not to be shown again in their existing form.

Toyota Hilux Born To Roam 0 4 Screenshot
“You can’t do that in a commercial!”

Advertising standards boards are perhaps known for being staffed by overzealous bureaucrats on the warpath, but attacks on off-road driving are becoming more commonplace of late. David Zipper, a visiting fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, has recently been taking automakers to task for adverts that glorify four-wheeling through the great outdoors. Zipper went as far as publicly calling out Ford’s Product Communications director, Mike Levine, for a post he shared on Twitter of his Ford Ranger crossing a stream. To some, it mattered not that Levine was using a stream crossing designated by the Forest Service and was perfectly within his rights to do so. Commenters poured in to accuse Levine of “destroying eco systems” and “trashing riverbeds” nonetheless.

These trends are beginning to show up in public policy, too. In October, the United States Bureau of Land Management announced it would close a full 317 miles of trails in Moab, Utah. In an area that has traditionally been known as a sort of off-roading paradise, it’s a significant reversal of fortune. Moab plays host to events like the Easter Jeep Safari, with off-roaders coming from far and wide to sample what the area has to offer. Prior to the closures, Moab had a full 1,057 miles of off-road trails, but activist groups in recent times have railed against the impact on the local environment. Popular routes along Labyrinth Canyon and the Gemini Bridges were closed by the BLM, drawing despair from members of the off-road community. Notably, some are intending to fight back, with off-road advocate group Blue Ribbon Coalition stating it will challenge the plan in court.

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It’s true that off-roading must be carefully managed on public lands in order to minimize any potential negative impacts on wildlife and the environment. It’s no good letting trucks roar through important breeding grounds for endangered animals, or in delicate areas where erosion could quickly see natural wonders destroyed. At the same time, government authorities and the off-road community have long maintained positive relationships to allow access in ways that allow the harmonious enjoyment of the land.

[Ed Note: Environmentalists have been speaking out against off-roading for a while, but things seem to be accelerating, with the closure of Moab’s off-road trails and a number of folks speaking out against things like river crossings. I attended a Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness event, and the company said something to the effect of: Subaru is all about being one with nature, whereas hard-core off-roaders like the Wrangler are more conquering nature. That’s not an exact quote, but the rep basically was trying to communicate that general premise. The point here is that, especially as more and more off-road vehicles hit the road, there appears to be opposition growing. -DT]. 

The reality is that we live in a time where the broader destruction of the environment is a hot-button topic for many, and for good reason, but this can mean that even a simple car advert shot on private land can inspire enmity and condemnation, something automakers are particularly keen to avoid. It’s unclear how these attacks can be put to bed.

The other reality is that much of the off-road community is an upstanding and self-policing group. Few will tolerate bad actors who misuse and abuse the trails and camping areas, after all, though there are exceptions.

Regardless, it’s clear public perception of off-roading isn’t the most positive right now. That will have to change if off-roaders are going to continue to enjoy the great outdoors from behind the wheel. It’s likely going to take a serious public relations effort to shift those perceptions over time.

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Image credit: YouTube screenshot via PlatigeImage

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The Car Accumulator
The Car Accumulator
7 months ago

Oh no! Not the scree! Who will think of the scree??? But seriously, what’s the point of preserving all the nature if nobody can get to it? Not everyone can hike fifty miles, ya know…

Rafael Eduardo Rivero Mejia
Rafael Eduardo Rivero Mejia
7 months ago

As somebody that leaves on the sticks near an active volcano, I can tell you that the main contributor to pollution of green areas is paradoxically farming. The amount of land taken for cash crops and animals is insanely huge, it requires electricity, water, a bunch of pesticides and medicine, there is rarely any railways so farmers use huge trucks and things like that.

To blame the deterioration of nature on just cars is to ignore the fact that we live in an industrialised world were plastics are literally everywhere and won’t decompose for a long, loong time.

If these (urbanite) activists really want to make a difference, they should start by helping fund more reforestation campaigns and creating measures to actually start reducing our dependance on fossil fuels, both here in the developed world as well as the developing countries like China which abuse the lack of controls being put on their massive industrial output.

Ben
Ben
7 months ago

I have very little patience for the motorized off roading crowd. While I enjoy doing it, I also see the damage that a single bad actor can do. While hikers and bikers can certainly do damage too, all it takes is one a-hole on a four wheeler blasting through a muddy prairie to leave scars that will be there for decades. It takes a looooong time for vegetation to recover at elevation.

Add to that the way people like to ride their obnoxiously loud vehicles around campgrounds and silent sports trails and you end up with a form of entertainment that is not generally viewed in a positive light by those who don’t participate. Electrification will help with the noise problem, but that’s only a halfway solution to improving the image of off roading.

And I don’t have a solution to propose either. In any hobby there’s going to be that one guy who can’t follow the rules, written or unwritten. The thing is, when That Guy has a multiple ton vehicle with hundreds of horsepower on tap he can do a lot of damage in a short time. I mean, just look at David’s old backyard in Detroit. 😛

Ioan Radulescu
Ioan Radulescu
7 months ago

we don’t have a lot of free wild space in Europe so we have to take care of it.

This ad is like making an advert for smoking, it’s bad for everyone, just like destroying nature that needs like 100 years to recover after an outdoor tire print. There is rally and that’s about it, when it comes to racing in nature, no need to go fast in full fridge on wheels.

Bork Bork
Bork Bork
7 months ago

War indeed. People disapproving your hobby is the same thing as people actively trying to kill you. Same thing, yup. War on Christmas is here again as well. How many will die?

Gene1969
Gene1969
7 months ago

First: The British Ad group need to lighten up. A lot!

Second: The ad agency that filmed the ad needs to be honest about the theme in making it. No way this Hilux ad was about Rangers, Famers, and Forestry workers. This ad was made to look like a nature documentary. This was a Hilux herd of wildebeest crossing a river before migrating to the urban environment, showing it fits everywhere.

Wildebeest video. Great wildebeest migration crossing the Mara River between Masai Mara and Serengeti [Kenya-Tanzania] – YouTube

Third is this comment: The ad was investigated after a solitary complaint by a UK-based group called Adfree Cities, on the basis that the clip “condones behavior that was harmful to the environment.”

Man if that bugs them, they must hate this old Silverado Commercial.
2000 Chevy Silverado Commercial – YouTube

Look at all that destruction of the environment! And that’s just the construction going on in the background. There were trees and grass before all that steel and cement.

Finally: The BLM and these anti off roading groups are creating a larger mess. By closing down these public trails where people can drive responsibly using the Tread Lightly method, they are encouraging the off roaders to buy land just for hooning around.

Redneck Yacht Club Spring Break – YouTube

Off roading can be fun and done responsibly. Do these anti-off-roading groups and the BLM want some influence of trail preservation or do they want to be shut completely out by legal land owners creating private offroad parks?

Theresatimetocomment
Theresatimetocomment
7 months ago

Off-roading will need to follow the path of hunting and fishing, using conservation as their selling point to the public. Hunting and fishing advocacy groups have provided real investment opportunities for industry and enthusiast stakeholders. Some nonprofits are legitimately turning that money into riparian and wildlife improvements. Some are more just for PR or legal advocacy.

Off-roading industry and enthusiast stakeholders will need to increase monetary investment in related environmental improvements, while also increasing the visibility of their investment outcomes. It’s sort of there. But not nearly to the critical mass it needs to be.

Investments need to also include changes in user behavior in areas many casual off-road enthusiasts might not like. For example, many hunters find themselves with mixed feelings about wolf reintroduction. Many ranchers are also hunter-activists. They are worried about what wolves can do to their herds, while simultaneously also wanting the positive outcomes of wolves on their environments.

John Patson
John Patson
7 months ago

Of course they could not use ordinary farmers or loggers because they are ugly sods, and would grumble about the clunks when they tried to lock the dif and Toyota’s electric gremlins would not let them…
France was late to the whole SUV thing, but now something like 70% of cars sold are SUVs. What makes me laugh is you actually see fewer cars off road now, because they are so big and heavy and feel unsafe on narrow little tracks. Time was you could climb the highest mountain and find someone in a little Citroën AX or a Renault 4, with at least one window replaced with a plastic bag and tape, already there.
And the owner would appear from the woods scratching themselves, but with a basket of mushrooms…

John Riley
John Riley
7 months ago

Colorful spot in N. California. Old story. Not sure about current status.

https://www.sfgate.com/california-parks/article/lost-coast-california-illegal-beach-camping-park-16477935.php

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
7 months ago

Worth noting the Advertising Standard Authority, despite appearances is not a statutory body – it’s a voluntary advisory one that has no legal power. The voluntary pulling of this advert ties into wider issues about advertisers self-regulating, and making sure the government doesn’t get involved.

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
7 months ago

“travelled across untarmacked plains and through rivers”. So we should tarmac all the plains and rivers then? Would that fix it?

ExParrot
ExParrot
7 months ago
Reply to  67 Oldsmobile

I have found in general the folks that are admonishing driving on trails and dirt are the same ones calling for greater urbanization and centralizing the populace – this causing greater destruction of the environment as the concrete jungle is forced to expand and encroach on the natural world

Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
7 months ago
Reply to  ExParrot

I think their utopian goal is brownfield and redfield infill and redevelopment. While I would not enjoy living in a typical urban environment, I think we can all do a bit more to just stop buying so much crap and especially crap that gets shipped to us. Rose a bike and walk a bit, and see how long you can go without buying stuff or eating out!

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
7 months ago
Reply to  ExParrot

It *feels* like more destruction, because you can see fewer trees around you, but a sprawling suburban neighborhood is far, far worse than an urban apartment building or a row of townhouses when it comes to destruction.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
7 months ago

Advertisements showing people abusing your product and being jerks is probably not a good idea.

Didn’t one manufacture, I think it was Ford, get sued a few years ago by somebody who tried to do something that was in one of their commercials, and broke the truck in half. I believe that the manufactures defense was only an idiot would act the way people do in their commercials.

On the other hand, the advertising seems to be working, judging from local traffic. The Venn diagram of jerks and off-road wannabe drivers seems to have massive overlap.

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
7 months ago

This is such nonsense. I’ve personally been directly affected by the environmental zealots trying to take things away. Specifically my wife’s family was prohibited by the blm from accessing their family cabin because they hadn’t gotten an environmental impact study done prior to construction. The cabin is so old it is on the national historical register and the road to it and the property it is on is all private, so when threatened with a lawsuit they backed off, but it took them several months to even acknowledge that they had no standing to gate off private property.

Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
7 months ago
Reply to  Geekycop .

Yeah, the BLM is pretty bad for overreach. On of my favorite rivers to kayak is illegal in spots because it will cause environmental harm, but the people fishing, camping, horse riding, and off-roading are ok???

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