Volkswagen had to defend a controversial commercial to Australia’s Advertising Standards Board over allegations that a Tiguan ad promoted child abuse. The board noted that the spot caused concern but decided that there wasn’t any content that prevented it from being on the air.
The commercial shows a little girl in the back seat of a Tiguan. Her parents are in front and talking like she isn’t there, including making fun of her art. The most controversial portion lasts around three seconds, and shows the father arriving to work. He talks on the phone about being late for a meeting and appears to leave the girl in the car. However, the editing never actually shows him leave. The final tag line is, “Easy to forget it’s a family car.”
These few seconds of the ad made some Australian viewers incredibly angry. People complained that the spot made light of leaving children alone in a car and made a joke about neglect. Kids around the world have died this way. A few letters called it “disturbing,” “offensive,” and “in bad taste.”
VW countered “the advertisement clearly makes use of humor and quite obvious exaggeration regarding everyday situations with children in the car.” The little girl also would have been old enough to complain if she were actually left in a vehicle. “The tone is a light hearted play on the fact that the Tiguan doesn’t feel like a family SUV,” the automaker said in its defense.
The majority Advertising Standards Board agreed with VW’s position. It “acknowledged the high level of community concern around this issue but considered that in this instance this advertisement did not encourage or condone children being left in vehicles.” In addition, the little girl is never actually in the Tiguan alone.