Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/09/28/dvla_castrol/

DVLA pledges investigation over Castrol spy posters

Marketing cash greases wheels

By Christopher Williams

Posted in Government, 28th September 2009 11:14 GMT

The DVLA's sideline in selling data to marketing companies is under renewed scrutiny after Castrol used it to target drivers with personalised billboard advertising.

The poster campaign - at five high profile locations in London - was scheduled to run for two weeks but was pulled last week after just four days, following complaints.

Each billboard was connected to a number plate recognition camera and computer that would search a copy of the DVLA database for the car's make and model. Castrol would then flash an oil recommendation on the billboard's digital display, along with the registration number, in an attempt to grab drivers' attention.

Today the DVLA said: "We have not provided any vehicle information to Castrol or received any fee from them in relation to their campaign.

"DVLA provides vehicle information under strict contractual terms to the motor industry to ensure vehicles are fitted with the correct parts, including brakes, tyres and oil.

"We make it absolutely clear that information must not be used for direct marketing purposes."

The DVLA may not have supplied Castrol directly, but it does give data to intermediaries.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker told the Mail on Sunday the practice was "cavalier".

"They don't even check what the end use is. It seems all you have to do is ask and the DVLA will give, no matter who you are and for what purpose. It's outrageous this was allowed to happen," he said.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the AA said personalised billboards could dangerously distract drivers.

Yet at launch last week, Castrol was hoping to extend the campaign beyond the first five sites. "We’re confident that the campaign will not only excite and intrigue drivers, but serve its purpose in helping motorists to understand the 'right oil right car' message.

"If the campaign proves successful, we may consider a roll out to further sites including areas with longer dwell times such as forecourts," said marketing manager Rob Stroud.

The DVLA today said such use was "inappropriate" and it was "urgently investigating". ®