Nissan, Ad Agency Settle With FTC Over Hill Climb Dramatization in Frontier Ads

TTAC Staff
by TTAC Staff

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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  • AJ AJ on Jan 25, 2014

    Someone must be looking for a campaign contribution. What a joke.

  • Jim brewer Jim brewer on Jan 25, 2014

    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.

  • JimC2 JimC2 on Jan 25, 2014

    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!

  • Njmx Njmx on Jan 28, 2014

    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.

    • JimC2 JimC2 on Jan 28, 2014

      "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."