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Advertising watchdog makes ruling after receiving just one complaint over Citroën C4 ad

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that an advert showing a group of cyclists cheerfully pursuing a Citroën C4 car cannot be broadcast during children's TV programmes because the bike riders concerned are not wearing cycle helmets.

The advertising watchdog made the ruling after receiving just one complaint from a viewer who “challenged whether the ad was appropriate to be broadcast at times when children were likely to be watching, because it could condone and encourage behaviour prejudicial to their health and safety.”

According to the ASA, the viewer had complained that “none of the cyclists featured in the ad were wearing cycling helmets,” and while that’s true in the 30-second version, the full, 1-minute version of the ad shown below does show two children wearing helmets about 20 seconds in.

The ad, which was filmed in Copenhagen, generated some discussion among cyclists when it was first aired, particularly regarding what it was actually trying to say. One poster on the City Cycling Edinburgh forum reflected on the possible environmental message before reflecting: “Or, all cyclists have to stay behind it to be safe as hybrid vehicles in electric mode are deathly silent.”

Meanwhile, a poster on the Copenhagenize website pointed out that the central message of the ad seemed to be that it was equally quick to get from traffic light to traffic light on a bike as in a car.

In its ruling the ASA said that Citroën, which does not intend to air the ad in the UK again, had “pointed out that wearing a cycling helmet was not a legal requirement in the UK, although they accepted that it was good practice to wear a helmet whilst cycling.”

The company said that the ad, which was intended to show how “the C4's engine stopped when the vehicle came to a halt at traffic lights, which was less polluting and more comfortable for cyclists,” did not show “cyclists were not shown to be riding in a dangerous manner and that there were no other vehicles in the road in the immediate vicinity of the cyclists.”

As a result, and with no children featured in the ad [according to the ruling, which presumably addressed the shorter version], the car manufacturer said it “did not believe the ad condoned or encouraged poor cycling practices on the part of children or anyone else.”

Clearcast, the independent body which pre-approves most TV advertising in the UK, said that while it recommended that children shown cycling in ads should be depicted wearing helmets, it “did not require adults to wear helmets because it was not a legal requirement,” and “did not normally place a scheduling restriction on ads featuring adult cyclists” The body added that it did not believe that the ad needed to be restricted from being shown around children’s programming.

In its ruling, the ASA said that it “considered that adults and older children would understand that the scenario depicted in the ad was fantastical and set apart from reality, because of the sheer number of cyclists involved, the lack of cars in their immediate vicinity and the fact that they were cycling in unison and chasing the C4. We therefore concluded that the ad did not condone behaviour prejudicial to the health and safety of adults and older children and was unlikely to cause harm to them.

“However,” it added, “we considered that younger children might not appreciate the fantastical nature of the ad and might consider that the ad represented a real-life scenario. We were therefore concerned that the ad might encourage younger children to emulate a behaviour prejudicial to their health and safety, and therefore concluded that the ad should have been given an 'ex kids' scheduling restriction to ensure that it was not broadcast at times when younger children were likely to be watching.”
 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.