By on January 24, 2014

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Nissan North America and TBWA Worldwide, Nissan’s ad agency have agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over the FTC’s claims that a television commercial for the Nissan Frontier misled consumers about the truck’s ability to climb hills. The 30 second ad, titled “Hill Climb”, portrayed a Frontier pushing a stranded dune buggy up a steep sand dune. In reality, the Frontier wold not be able to perform the stunt in the ad. To shoot the ad, both vehicles were towed up the hill using cables.

According to Automotive News, the FTC said that Nissan and the ad agency are prohibited from using potentially misleading demonstrations in future advertisements for its trucks. No fines will be paid and both companies issued statements saying they never had any intention of misleading consumers. “Nissan takes its commitment to fair and truthful advertising seriously,” Nissan spokesman Travis Parman wrote in an e-mail. “The company has been and remains committed to complying with the law.”

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

While the ad did flash a disclaimer on the screen, in small print: “Fictionalization. Do not attempt,” the FTC deemed that insufficient to protect consumers that might think it was not a dramatization.

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43 Comments on “Nissan, Ad Agency Settle With FTC Over Hill Climb Dramatization in Frontier Ads...”


  • avatar
    MK

    Well thank goodness the FTC was all over this! Otherwise someone could’ve been bogged down trying to climb a sand dune!

    But I guess it was the right thing to do, otherwise you might have the common clay of new UhMerica thinking they could drive their car on the roof of a train. Or that a Camry is an exciting car.

    You know crazy stuff.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    anyone,including the FTC that takes any TV advert seriously has to be a bit naive … Besides we all know that a Unimog would manage that stunt easily.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I wonder if the settlement involves letting the UAW take over their U.S. factories. The manufacturers that have resisted organized crime in their transplant factories will continue to be viewed as pinatas by the O***a regime until they acquiesce.

  • avatar
    RobertPaulson

    Yet the grossly unrealistic pictures on the front of Banquet TV dinners continue.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    Since Redbull didn’t have to settla I can assume their commercials are true and I can jump out of a window since it will give me wings?

    Ford will be required to state EPA and real world mileage? Hyundai will now be required to state they have a 10 year warranty, but only for things that don’t fail? Mazda will be required to state their cars will look really sporty in 5 years witht he rust-brown color? VW will be required to not show cars driving on a street, but sitting in a shop, where they spend most of the time?

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Uh Oh, does this mean that the new Nissan Rogue won’t be able to jump on top of a train during rush hour?

  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    What about the ad that shows the Frontier catching an airliner’s front landing gear and allowing it to safely land?

  • avatar
    sexyhammer

    Well a stock Toyota pickup pulled the space shuttle in a commercial, and the FTC let them get away with that…

    … Because it actually happened without special effects and hidden cables.

    I’ll reconsider Nissan as a truck manufacturer when the new Cummins Titan proves out. No comment on their ability to build a decent car.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    It didn’t even look remotely real anyway. The movements of the truck were too controlled, and there were no rooster tails as he pushed it. And it stopped way too quickly when it reached the buggy.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I bought a Frontier a month ago. I am saddened at the news this ad was a fake. In my month of ownership I became more and more sure of its sand dune capabilities as I drove and parked at the airport every week. Alas, I have been bamboozled, again. I can’t win.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Since they only went after Nissan am I to assume that a Tacoma can actually survive a meteor strike as depicted in an ad a few years back?

  • avatar
    strafer

    ^^^ Speaking of Tacoma, there’s also that commercial where a vengeful girlfriend pushes the guys truck over a cliff and the Taco lands wheels down without a scratch.

  • avatar
    BigOlds

    You guys really need to educate on this a bit.

    Obviously ridiculous ads are OK for precisely that reason. Nobody believes any of these cars can fly. Something actually performed, no matter how silly, is by definition possible.

    I have no problem with the FTC calling them on this ad- the line has to be drawn somewhere, and so they periodically slap a wrist and remind everyone to cool it. What if Bayer said Aspirin could cure cancer- would that be OK? What about when someone’s treatable cancer metastasized and killed him, because he didn’t think he needed the doctor? What if a Silverado ad claimed 35mpg? The consumer would only be able to know that wasn’t true after he made the decision to purchase the vehicle.

    If the FTC fined the hell out of them for what seems like an ad in good faith (I don’t think they were really trying to sell to the dune buggy crowd which can’t be that big) then I would agree it would be overreaching. But reminding advertisers of the rules here and there- I am glad someone is doing it.

    • 0 avatar
      old5.0

      If you believe this ad is a realistic interpretation of the truck’s capabilities, or that a Silverado gets 35mpg, or that aspirin cures cancer, you deserve what you get.

      But thank God we have the FTC (and you, apparently) to save every moron from themselves in the grandest Nader tradition. It shouldn’t be long until the average national IQ crosses the boundary of “Legally Retarded”.

      • 0 avatar
        BigOlds

        Truth in advertising laws are nothing new. And I am glad that you are smart enough to evaluate every claim made by a company. These laws don’t exist because someone imagined a problem. They exist because there was a problem. Clearly rhetorical devices like my aspirin and MPG examples were a bit too abstract for you, so how about the real life example of Radium, which was widely advertised as a health tonic. Radium displaces calcium in biological systems, and so is taken up in bone. As a result it sits there irradiating one’s insides, causing horrific, gruesome deaths. But hey- all those people who don’t even know what Radium is should have been smart enough not to believe the ads. They got what they deserved, right?

        Are you suggesting that manufacturers should be able to make any claim they wish, no matter how unsubstantiated? If not, then where is the line, precisely?

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Yeah, because if a dedicated Dune Buggy can not get up the Dune I am certain a bone stock Frontier can do it. The point is this ad is ridiculous to anyone with an IQ higher than Forest Gump’s.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Must have been a slow day at the office, at the FTC Building. In my opinion, anyone who buys a Nissan Frontier with the intention of replicating this stunt deserves the lesson on the realities of life he will get when he tries it. And the only cost would be for a sand-capable tow-truck to dig him out, if that.

    This reminds me of the case the agency brought against Litton Industries for marketing a ‘meal in one’ microwave oven in the late 1970s. I worked on the team defending that case.

    When you compare this to the thousands of ads for penis enhancers, various herb cures for this and that . . . which are published every day without penalty, you gotta wonder.

    OTOH, the herbal industry has Friends in Congress.

    That’s why its called “regulation in the public interest.”

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    This commercial is a lot more realistic looking than the one showing the Rogue jumping onto the train. Is any part of it real? Did the Frontier at least run across the sand and then get pulled up the hill? I’m not a fan of over-regulation but a fictional depiction needs to be clear about it.

  • avatar
    catachanninja

    It always jumped out at me how large the font and how redundant the warnings in most Nissan ads are, I suspect this is the cause. Also I guess this means no slalom or barrel rolls huh?

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I guess fictionalization is too long. Break it down into several monosyllabic words (ie this is fake) and they would have been ok.

    For this to be anything but crap we must assume the common denominator has slipped further. You could have talked me into a good deal on a frontier with or without this ad.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Wonder what the settlement was? Did Jessica Rich’s family get a bunch of Nissans out of the deal? Christ, what part of ‘Ridiculous ad is ridiculous’ don’t these pinheads get?

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    Jeep did this meme right. I can’t find the ad online (bummer) but it’s an advertising executive with his clients standing on top of a butte talking about how they will frame the shot of their SUV… Then the car company exec asks “but how will we get our truck up here?” To which the advertising guy snorts and says “We’ll lift it up with a helicopter, duh” and then they get into their Jeeps for the drive back down.

  • avatar
    AJ

    Someone must be looking for a campaign contribution.

    What a joke.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    The most famous FTC fine was against Campbell’s Soup. They would put marbles in the soup to push the good stuff to the top for a nice picture.

    I’d say this ad is plainly illegal. The standard is not fraud, e.g. “Frontier Trucks!35 mpg!” The standard is false and misleading advertising.

    I’d say this is a clearly deceptive ad that they deserved a fine. For one thing, they went to considerable lengths to give the ad versimilitude. They used a hand-held camera with the focus going in and out. A truck is an off-road vehicle, and its not outside the realm of possibility that it can climb a sand dune. There is absolutely no disclaimer in the ad. These days you see disclaimers like: “cars can’t fly” Why did they omit the disclaimer? Because they want to fool people.

    Nissan got off with less of a penalty than we get for blowing past a speed van. Typical of our captive regulators.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    I just saw a Subaru commercial in which there were anthropomorphic dogs driving the car. The dogs weren’t wearing their seat belts either.

    I’m so confused. Help me, FTC!

  • avatar
    njmx

    Can’t believe all the FTC hate in these comments. This ad, unlike some of the other over-the-top ads mentioned here, was clearly shot in the style of a “real life video” i.e. something you would find on youtube.

    It was *meant* to deceive. Or at least to create a misleading impression about the products capabilities.

    Just because ttac readers are knowledgeable about cars and what they can and cannot do, doesn’t mean the average person is. There are plenty of people that are totally sucked in by this kind of crap and think wow that truck is bad-ass, look what it can do. The FTC should stay on top of this kind of stuff. If they didn’t, it wouldn’t be long before car ads were featuring gopro videeos of shitboxes beating corvettes in a drag race, and yes that would def mislead plenty of people who couldn’t tell you the difference between an I4 and a V8.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “There are plenty of people that are totally sucked in by this kind of crap and think wow that truck is bad-ass, look what it can do.”

      True, there are. A fool and his money are soon parted. I prefer to think of these kinds of things as a “stupidity tax.”


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