Ford’s product placement deal with Casino Royale’s makers certainly authorised the appearance of Bond film footage in a TV ad for the Focus Zetec Climate, but if the Focus didn’t appear in the movie was this a sin? Anna Montes reports on a perhaps harsh ASA verdict.
Topic: Branded content
Who: Ford Motor Company Limited
When: 14 March 2007
Those of you who have seen the latest James Bond film 'Casino Royale' will know that Ford enjoyed a strong level of product placement within the film. Aston Martin's new DBS was 007's choice of vehicle and the new Ford Mondeo was his top choice of rental car while abroad! As you can imagine, having negotiated a good product placement agreement for a prominent film, Ford would want to make the most of this exposure. Its agreement with Sony / Eon permitted Ford to use various James Bond assets and iconography across general advertising of the Ford brand in return for Ford's promotion of the 'Casino Royale' film launch-date. Prior to the general date release of the film in the UK, Ford therefore created a new advertising campaign for its Ford Focus Zetec Climate. The ad included various shots of a car (including a car entering a bright white stage in black silhouette) and footage from the latest James Bond film 'Casino Royale'. Text featured on-screen stated "Retail only. Ends December 18th." and following further scenes from the film the text "FOCUS ZETEC CLIMATE LICENCED AND LOADED FROM JUST £12,995" was also featured together with a specific picture of that model. At the end of the ad Ford used the on-screen text "CASINO ROYALE IN CINEMAS NOVEMBER 16" followed by its corporate logo.
What was considered wrong with this?
The ASA received two complaints relating to this ad, both on the grounds that the ad was misleading. It was felt to be misleading by the viewers concerned on the basis that although the ad ended with a shot of the Focus Zetec Climate, it mainly featured shots of Ford's new Mondeo model which was featured within the film and not due for sale until 2007. It was therefore argued that the ad misleadingly implied that the Focus Zetec Climate was used in the film 'Casino Royale' and therefore sections 5.1, 5.4.1 and 5.2.2 of the BCAP TV advertising code had been breached by Ford.
In response, Ford argued that its ads were not misleading as they promoted the general link existing between Ford and the film 'Casino Royale'. The other purpose of including scenes from the film within the ad they explained was simply to engage and entertain viewers – indeed not all scenes featured even concerned a car. The ad's final scenes then gave specific details of the Focus Zetec Climate's name, price and image as was appropriate for an ad relating to that model. From Ford's perspective, the purpose behind the ads was to not only advertise the Focus Zetec Climate but to also demonstrate the wide-reaching nature of the agreement in place between Ford and the creators of James Bond. For this reason Ford had also created various national press ads showing James Bond imagery alongside its Ka, Fiesta and Focus models.
The Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) was also called upon to provide its view on the ads and it reiterated to the ASA the fact that Ford had negotiated an agreement with Sony / Eon permitting the association between the brands in advertising such as this. The BACC therefore confirmed to the ASA that it had approved the content of Ford's advertising campaign on the basis that the authorised connection between 'Casino Royale' and Ford extended to Ford's range of vehicles and was not limited to just the Mondeo vehicle featured in the film.
What did the ASA rule?
Despite acknowledging that Ford and Sony / Eon had negotiated an agreement which permitted Ford to create a series of advertising campaigns linking its cars with the film and despite noting that the final scene of the ad concerned showed the Focus Zetec Climate and details of its name and price, the ASA considered it was not sufficiently clear to consumers that the car interspersed with footage from the film was different from the car identified at the end of the ad. The ASA held that viewers were likely to wrongly believe that only one car was being advertised throughout the whole ad. The ASA therefore upheld the complaints it had received on the basis that it was difficult to differentiate between the two cars featured within the ad and a misleading impression would be given that it was the Focus Zetec Climate that was used within 'Casino Royale'. The ASA felt that this wrong impression would make the Focus Zetec Climate more attractive to some viewers and this was therefore a cause for concern. Ford was prevented from any further use of the ads in their current form.
Why this matters:
This ruling will appear harsh to many advertisers. Despite creating advertising that complied with the agreement it had negotiated within Sony / Eon, Ford then found itself in breach of the CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (the ad had been misleading about a material fact or characteristic of the product concerned), 5.2.2 (that descriptions, claims or illustrations had implied attributes, capabilities or performance beyond those that could be achieved in normal use) and 5.4.1 (that the ads had used techniques likely to give a misleading or unfair impression of the product).
This ruling does act as a stark reminder to advertisers that even if they wish to exploit the benefits of a film or other tie-in they have negotiated to associate their brand with a film, artist or event, as well as complying with the terms of such a tie-in, the applicable advertising Codes must not be forgotten. If an advertiser wants to exploit the tie-in to the benefit of its brand/product range as a whole as well as in respect of individual product ranges then appropriate disclaimers should be used to ensure any misleading impressions are avoided. The ASA clearly believes there is room for the public to be misled where product association is concerned and that product placement can influence so care must be taken to ensure advertising campaigns such as Ford's leave no scope for criticism.