The ad showed a close-up of an automobile badge depicting a despondent donkey on a car that looked like a Ferrari. The Italian carmaker complained the ad exploited the goodwill in Ferrari's prancing horse badge and disparaged Ferrari properties. BMW argued that the vehicle shown was an unidentifiable "composite'' that constituted a parody, which is allowed by the ASA code.
The ASA ruled that while the illustration was a parody, it would be identified with Ferrari. "This does not constitute fair play among advertisers," it ruled. "Ferrari is equated to a despondent donkey which is, to say the least, not complimentary of a sports car icon."
Mercedes and Ferrari both complained that BMW's claim to be the fastest car was misleading. The ASA found that the car manufacturer's claim of an acceleration figure of 0-100 kilometers an hour in 5.3 seconds was insufficiently substantiated, but advised that tests conducted by Autocar magazine would be acceptable, provided the research organization was named. In the Autocar tests, the BMW M5 and the Subaru Impreza WRX both showed even faster accelerations of 0-60 miles an hour in 4.6 seconds.
BMW was asked to revise the advertisement if it wished to use it in future.
Copyright March 2000, Crain Communications Inc.