UK Watchdog Bans Toyota Ad For Promoting Environmental Recklessness

📸 Angela Christofilou (@protests_photos)

📸 Angela Christofilou (@protests_photos)

Toyota published advertisements for its Hilux SUV vehicles by depicting them driving through rugged nature scenes. Activist groups Adfree Cities and Badvertising lodged a complaint with the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on the grounds that the ad encouraged behavior “grossly prejudicial” to environmental protection. The ASA then banned the ad from being used in the UK.

“SUVs are being sold on a false promise of rugged adventure, exploiting imagery of the natural world. In reality, SUVs are harming nature, polluting our air, clogging up our cities and causing tragic loss of life. This ruling is welcome but regulation of SUV adverts is not enough; the promotion of SUVs should be terminated altogether.” - Veronica Wignall, co-founder of Ad-Free Cities.

The Ad

Toyota, one of the world’s largest car manufacturers based in Aichi, Japan, launched the “Born to Roam” ad campaign in 2020 to promote its Hilux SUV. Using drones and CGI editing, the company created a video depicting multiple Hilux vehicles driving through mountain terrain and over a river bed. The second was a poster (typically displayed at bus stops) showing Hilux vehicles driving over rocky terrain. 


Adfree Cities and Badvertising, two UK NGOs working to get commercial advertising out of public spaces, launched a complaint with the ASA in March 2023, arguing that the Toyota Hilux ads were promoting environmentally irresponsible behavior in violation of UK’s Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing, Countryside Code and the Road Traffic Act.

“Abusing references to nature to sell vehicles that harm people and the natural world is a road crash of corporate irresponsibility. Adverts like this should never have been let out of the garage in the first place.” – Andrew Simms, co-founder of Badvertising. 

Jaguar Land Rover 

Previously, the ASA received 96 complaints about a 2021 ad showing a Jaguar Land Rover Defender vehicle driving in a forest with mud splashes on its sides. Many argued that such ads were harmful to vulnerable habitats. Originally the ASA considered banning the ad but then decided that such vehicles were indeed used in rural forest areas as depicted.


Despite the Jaguar Land Rover decision, the ASA agreed that the Toyota ad showed multiple vehicles depicted in a “fantastical” way that could be seen as “analogous to a herd of animals.” It noted that the vehicles were being driven “across off-road environments and natural ecosystems which had no regard for the environmental impact of such driving.”


In a decision handed down in late November 2023, the ASA banned Toyota from using both the video and the poster in the UK. The ban is the first time a car ad has been banned on environmental grounds. (The ASA mostly bans ads for being misleading or false.) The action also upholds the ASA’s commitment to support UK greenhouse gas emission reductions. 

Company Response

“Toyota does not condone behaviour that is harmful to the environment. In fact, over the course of the past three decades, not only has Toyota been one of the leaders in the automotive field in terms of carbon emissions reduction, it has shared hundreds of royalty-free licences, allowing others to use its electrification technology.” – Toyota spokesperson.

This is #71 in our series of Instagram infographics on resistance against corporate power.

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📸 Angela Christofilou (@protests_photos)

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