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Nissan settles deceptive advertising suit with FTC

Nissan and TBWA Worldwide have settled a deceptive advertising suit with the Federal Trade Commission just days before the SuperBowl inundates the airwaves with some of the most expensive TV advertising in the world.

In the first FTC case against an automaker for deceptive advertising in more than two decades, the settlement reached means that Nissan and its ad agency for the advertisement will pay no fine, but will agree to refrain from deceptive advertising in the future.

The ad was aired in 2011 for the Nissan Frontier pickup truck and depicts the truck helping a stuck dune buggy climb the steep incline of a sand dune by racing up and pushing it over the top. The advertisement was made as a promotion of the truck's capabilities offroad and though it did contain a text-based warning to viewers that they should not attempt this, the FTC found that it was, in fact deceptive, because the scenario appeared realistic despite being accomplished through the use of hidden cables to pull the vehicles up the hill. Further, the FTC said that the disclosure printed on-screen was not clear and not conspicuous enough.

Some are seeing the FTC's accusation against Nissan and the lack of a fine as a sort of warning flare to automotive advertisers that they need to reign in their increasingly "out there" ad campaigns rather than a real punishment against the automaker.

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

It's likely that the FTC's complaint against Nissan, which was ongoing when the new advertisemens for the all-new 2014 Rogue debuted, were the impetus behind the more descriptive, but somewhat humorous "Fantasy, do not attempt. Cars can't jump on trains." remark appearing in that ad.


Robert McGehee (not verified)    January 27, 2014 - 3:28PM

And GM/Chevy truck ads show headlights and parking lights illuminated when an estimated 30% on the road have lights that fail to work. Deceptive? Based on their ads, I would not expect to see so many GM and Chevy trucks with lighting issues.