Ad showing cyclists without helmets can't be shown during kids' TV shows, says ASA

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

by Simon_MacMichael   April 27, 2011  

Citroen C4 ad.jpg

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.”
 

22 user comments

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... really?! What the hell is wrong with people today. At 23 years old I am getting increasingly worried about what ridiculous laws will be put in place in my life time to stop people from doing things which would have previously be known as common sense, we already have to have warnings on take-away Coffee cups, and now an advert can't be aired because people aren't wearing helmets?! You had better not take your child outside the house then, just in case you see someone without one on!

All the gear and no idea!

posted by JonMack [170 posts]
27th April 2011 - 10:40

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It's a nice ad, not going to make me buy a Citroen C4, but it does want to make me go and ride my bike… but then I'm an easy sell on that one anyway.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4111 posts]
27th April 2011 - 10:45

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Excellent! Now that a precedent has been set by the ASA, perhaps it is time for anyone in the UK to write in and complain about any motoring ad that doesn't show motorists wearing helmets.

The ASA acknowledges that even though helmets aren't mandatory, not wearing one "breached BCAP Code rules 5.2 (Children) and 32.3 (Scheduling)" because it "might encourage younger children to emulate a behaviour prejudicial to their health and safety".

Given that one is just as likely to sustain a head injury from cycling as one is from driving, then surely we must do everything possible to protect the children - 2807 were killed or seriously injured in the UK in 2008 alone.

You can do it right now: http://asa.org.uk/Complaints/How-to-complain/Online-Form/Step1.aspx

posted by davekinkead [4 posts]
27th April 2011 - 11:00

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One of the Bristol Traffic team complained to the ASA about a BMW advert's claims about GPS -and got dismissed because they were the only person to complain. That is, rather than read the references showing how you cannot trust GPS, they dismissed it based on the number of people writing in.

If more people complained about car advertisements use of phrases like "road tax" or other activities considered dangerous, perhaps they would regulate them better.

posted by bristoltraffic [14 posts]
27th April 2011 - 12:27

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During 2010 some 2,222 people died on the UK's roads. Perhaps we should not allow images of roads to be shown on UK TV in a fantastical context on the grounds that children may wish to use them and in doing so, risk death?

I think the time has come for compulsory wearing of helmets by pedestrians and perhaps car drivers too. Of course for a car driver a full-face helmet would be required due to the risk of injury to the face from a steering wheel in the event of an open faced helmet being worn. Cars should also be fitted with full racing harnesses for all occupants on the grounds that some drivers like to go quite fast on occasion. In the event of young and impressionable children seeing fantastical images of vehicles being driven at high speed, only slow moving milk floats should be pictured in television prgrammes shown before the watershed period. Films aimed at children such as Cars, showing racing vehicles with smiley human faces, should be banned from public view on the grounds that they encourage children to drive fast from an early age.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1941 posts]
27th April 2011 - 12:31

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wow - do we consumers really have this amount of power over the advertising and motor industries? Perhaps we should attempt to wield it in an organised and well targeted manner...

Anyone?

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posted by joemmo [694 posts]
27th April 2011 - 15:28

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So a TV station could show ET (a kids film) showing kid riding bikes without helmets (and flying them!). But in the breaks couldn't show an advert with adults riding bikes without helmets?
Wink

Of all the things to complain about in adverts this really is not an issue.

posted by thereverent [284 posts]
27th April 2011 - 16:44

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I'm outraged.

'According to the ASA, the viewer had complained that “none of the cyclists featured in the ad were wearing cycling helmets,” '

FFS... it's 'none of the cyclists WAS wearing a cycling helmet' Angry

If they can't get basic grammar right how can they be trusted to police the airwaves. And if that's what the viewer wrote then his complaint should be dismissed out of hand for being moronic and unintelligible.

The ASA had better hope that Mrs ADChris doesn't see this or she'll be down on them like a ton of bricks.

Is it about a bicycle ?

abudhabiChris's picture

posted by abudhabiChris [469 posts]
27th April 2011 - 16:53

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We actually complained to the ASA about a BMW advert that implied GPS was infallible:
http://bristolcars.blogspot.com/2009/10/bmw-no-joy-gps-is-spof.html

but the ASA rejected it as only one person complained (without enquiring about the qualifications of the user and whether they were regarded as qualified to discuss the failure modes of large scale computing infrastructures), and that it was only a metaphor. How can they then take a completely different view on a bicycle in a car advert? If they were concerned about the cyclist safety, they'd have banned the car from it.

posted by bristoltraffic [14 posts]
27th April 2011 - 17:03

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Too much stupidity... Must resist urge to mock idiots... Gah!

OK:

(1) What on earth has this got to do with the ASA? On whose authority is this non-statutory industry body deciding what is or isn't safe for cyclists? What qualifications do their personnel have to judge all the pros and cons of helmet use? What next: the Royal Mail refusing to deliver new bikes unless accompanied by helmets? Ofcom banning Strictly Come Dancing unless the male dancers wear cricket-style cups in case they influence any children watching to try dancing without taking precautions against their partners accidentally kicking them in the nuts?

(2) Clearly nobody at the ASA have been to Cogenhagen, or seen a Critical Mass, if they think "the scenario depicted in the ad was fantastical and set apart from reality, because of the sheer number of cyclists involved".

(3) There isn't a car advert broadcast in at least the last 20 years that hasn't presented a totally unrealistic view of driving. But then I guess social engineering entire generations to think the roads should be a carefree playground for people to use their over-powered products isn't deemed inappropriate by the ASA, because the effects are delayed until after childhood, when people get their driver's licenses.

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
27th April 2011 - 19:21

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Endorse totally. Do the ASA ever go out into the real world

From recent observations I reckon that the increasing number of everyday utility cyclists in London Glasgow and Edinburgh are pushing up the % of cyclists not wearing helmets - anyone else notice this?

Much as I don't particularly like the Citroen ideas - which include an electrically applied (and released) handbrake with no manual handle to grab and pull on a brake which is totally direct acting, I'm still happy to have them advertising their cars - especially when they even have the realism of cars being no faster then bikes in town.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [433 posts]
27th April 2011 - 21:46

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As part of the establishment, ASA is following the establishment line, that helmets must be promoted all the time, and anything which doesn't follow the establishment line must be squashed.

I've just spent six months following another establishment organisation's complaints system, the BBC's, after complaining twice about their institutional bias towards helmets, and about the appalling "More or Less" R4 prog which had an item about helmets. I provided lots of evidence, and demonstrated that they weren't following their own guidelines, but to no avail. Without providing any evidence to the contrary, the BBC Trust decided that there was no bias in the programme, nor is the BBC institutionally biased. The BBC Trust is the final arbiter in all complaints about BBC output, so when I complained about their decision, the response was "yah boo sucks, it's our ball and we're taking it away." They did suggest that I could take legal action, but without pots of money, that isn't an option.

Instead of gazing at royal navels, perhaps our investigative journalists might like to investigate something for a change, like the cycle helmet scam: make something very safe appear very dangerous, sell the gullible something which won't improve their safety and which they can't take back when it fails, and charge them lots for the privilige. Oh, and get some do gooders to demand a law and make even more money.

Crying

burtthebike

posted by burtthebike [59 posts]
27th April 2011 - 22:58

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handlebarcam wrote:

(3) There isn't a car advert broadcast in at least the last 20 years that hasn't presented a totally unrealistic view of driving. But then I guess social engineering entire generations to think the roads should be a carefree playground for people to use their over-powered products isn't deemed inappropriate by the ASA, because the effects are delayed until after childhood, when people get their driver's licenses.

Bravo - and yet people still buy into the dream.

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posted by joemmo [694 posts]
27th April 2011 - 23:49

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A fascinating outcome of 20 years of mandatory helmet law here in Australia is that we are now starting to get advertisements depicting cyclists WITHOUT helmets. Too many people see it as a destructive law that only discouraged the use of bicycles and achieved nothing safetywise. We are seeing the beginnings of a burgeoning reaction.

posted by Pjrob [21 posts]
28th April 2011 - 0:38

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Regarding the meaning of the original advert, it is worth remembering that people in marketing are idiots.

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
28th April 2011 - 7:03

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joemmo wrote:
handlebarcam wrote:

(3) There isn't a car advert broadcast in at least the last 20 years that hasn't presented a totally unrealistic view of driving. But then I guess social engineering entire generations to think the roads should be a carefree playground for people to use their over-powered products isn't deemed inappropriate by the ASA, because the effects are delayed until after childhood, when people get their driver's licenses.

Bravo - and yet people still buy into the dream.

Yes, very well said.

posted by Chuck [294 posts]
28th April 2011 - 10:49

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handlebarcam wrote:
Regarding the meaning of the original advert, it is worth remembering that people in marketing are idiots.

Good, but Bill Hicks' take on people in Marketing is much better. Yet despite the wisecracks those marketing bods succeed at selling people a whole pile of stuff they don't need.

I'm not prepared to take this crap lying down so have written a letter to Lord Smith at the ASA about this ludicrous adjudication.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1779 posts]
28th April 2011 - 14:30

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They had better not show any films of any cyclists made before about 10-15 years ago.
Until about then, nobody wore a helmet, and funnily enough, never felt unsafe about it.

Strange isn't it, how once the yanks (who really started the craze) invented them and realised there was some serious money to be made from selling them, it suddenly became SO dangerous not to wear one?

Anyone over the age of about 40 never wore one when they were younger, yet they managed not to die.

It seems to me that as soon as someone buys a helmet, they suddenly start having serious crashes that are so bad the helmet is smashed to bits. It's obviously a very dangerous thing to wear.

Binky

posted by davebinks [114 posts]
28th April 2011 - 18:10

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I have an idea - air bags for cyclists - conceled in the headset and below saddle. Then include stablisers so cyclists won't wobble. Add in a roll cage in case we are hit. In fact while we at at redesigning the bike for safety, how about indicators to rear and brake lights. Now we are getting somewhere. How about having rails in the road for cyclists to run along and cyclists only to cycle when the roads are free of cars. Don't get me started when it comes to off road but some form of gravitional stabiliser seems good.

Why is is always those people (here the asa) make a decision on what is safe for cyclists but never the cyclist themselves.

posted by Ciaran Patrick [116 posts]
28th April 2011 - 19:16

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I once complained that an advert for AA insurance showed someone not wearing a seatbelt in a Touran (the seatbelt is visible) they were insistent that he could have been wearing a lap belt. I drive a Touran the middle seat does not have a lap belt! (This isn't an ad for a Touran, but this feature allows all the seats in the rear to be removed. We do that most of the time to save fuel).

This was filmed on a public road. The ASA have a definite agenda the number of complaints bears no relation to their decisions.

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [275 posts]
28th April 2011 - 21:42

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Of course the advert encouraged children to do something that would end up killing them.
Encouraging children to drive cars when they grow up will lead them to adopt a sendentary life style that will ultimately lead to an increase in obesity, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and depression, reducing their life expectancy by at least 10 years compared to a "non-helmeted" cyclist - why would anyone want to encourage children to drive a car and die an unhealthy premature death.
We don't encourage children to smoke due to health concerns, yet we encourage them to want to drive.

Steve

posted by gmccsteve [4 posts]
28th April 2011 - 22:40

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Given that the home is the most dangerous place to be in, with many many accidents happening there, it should be compulsory to wear a helmet while indoors - whether at home or at work.
Then the ASA could moan about ads featuring homes without helmet-clad occupants.
Remember, the minute you don't wear a helmet at home, your fate is sealed.

posted by Cauld Lubter [113 posts]
28th April 2011 - 23:54

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