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London ad firm launches website and puts up helpful signs; all PR is good PR, right?

Everyone seems to be talking about cycle safety right now, what with the injuries to both Bradley Wiggins and Shane Sutton over the past week. But London-based ad firm Karmarama have taken it upon themselves to solve the problem with a simple message: Don't be a stupid twat.

Because apparently, that's the root of the problem. "Every year in this country there are around 19,000 reported cycling accidents on our roads, and on average 3,000 cyclists who are killed or seriously injured," their website, www.ride-smart.org, states. No argument there, it's a sobering statistic.

"Cyclists riding like stupid twats cause a percentage of these accidents so lots of accidents, injuries and deaths could therefore be avoided," it then goes on to say. And helpfully lists the most twattish things you can apparently do, which in order of twattishness are jumping red lights, cycling with headphones, not having lights at night and just "being stupid".

As well as their website, which loops videos of daft and dangerous behaviour by various riders, Karmarama have helpfully put up signs around London with limericks describing the deaths of fictional cyclists due to their behaviour.

There's so much wrong with this approach it's difficult to know where to start. But we have to start somewhere, so let's start with the fact that it's a huge exercise in victim blaming. The campaign links actual scenarios where cyclists are being killed – mostly it talks about being hit by lorries – directly with rider behaviour, and at no point talks about the responsibilities of other road users, as if it's rider behaviour that's the sole issue.

It's not. Analysis of the causes of collisions resulting in death or serious injury to cyclists shows that one in four accidents resulting in death or serious injury to a cyclist are due to the cyclist being struck from behind. The top bugbear on Ride Smart's list, red light jumping, accounts for just 2% of injuries.

Chris Peck of CTC told The Guardian at the time of the above report: “The main cause of crashes seems to be 'failed to look properly', whereas very few cyclists are injured or killed acting illegally, such as failing to use lights at night or disobeying traffic signals. We believe that the government should now focus on tackling the causes of injury which appears to be mainly inconsiderate and dangerous driving. Reduced speed limits, stronger traffic law enforcement and cycle-friendly road design are the solutions."

The campaign, if we can call it that, is also massively divisive in that it works to reinforce the prejudices that many people have – including, we'd suggest, the people that cause most danger to cyclists – about the behaviour of bike riders. The more people that think that deaths of cyclists on the road are due to simple twattery on the part of those killed, the less likely they are to look at their own behaviour. That's not good.

There's so much more, but we'll sign off with a quick note that any campaign based largely around limericks should probably employ a copywriter that can do good ones. And leave the last word to Mark Ames from top London cycling blog ibikelondon, who said of the campaign, ""The message that all road users should take care is no bad thing, but this 'campaign' – which has been seemingly dreamt up by the advertising agency Karmarama - is so uncomfortably ill-thought out, ham-fisted and juvenile it leaves one wondering if they left the work experience kids in charge of the 'Publish' button?

"It wouldn't be so bad if it existed only online but the installation of these badly written limerick signs in public spaces serves not only to perpetuate the myth that cyclists are responsible for their own demise, but also could cause genuine distress to those of us who have witnessed real cycling crashes on London's dangerous roads and who might come across these by accident. If I was an advertiser I'd be checking my brand was safe in the hands of Karmarama if this is the best they can come up with. On the other hand if this is supposed to be some kind of not so clever stunt then sadly, in the week that the 12th cyclist to die in London in 2012 passed away, it's just not terribly funny."

Karmarama, who have so far been likened to Nathan Barley and fictional Twenty Twelve PR firm Perfect Curve by the bike congnoscenti, have a mantra: Work hard, Be nice to people, Play ping pong. This phoned-in and frankly ridiculous publicity stunt seems to fail on all three counts... unless they were playing ping pong when they dreamed it up, that is. We wouldn't put it past them.

Karmarama limerick competition

Write a limerick detailing what you think of the campaign and stick it in a comment below. A pair of socks to the winner! We'll judge it when the fuss has died down.

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.

76 comments

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Gkam84 [9089 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I'm glad I don't jump reds, else thats me, Keith, Fixie and living in the east  19

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gazza_d [465 posts] 3 years ago
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This wasn't cos they left the kids in charge. The children would do a much better job.

Obviously a bunch of complete cycle-hating car-loving w@nkers - I really hope Karma catches up with them and teaches them a sound lesson.

Also wonder if they have any cycling related clients? If so they may be interested in this fine example of their PR company's work

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sethpistol [69 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

There was an agency called Karmarama
Who love to create quite a drama
Their campaign was fake
Like a shop window cake
And their CEO is most likely a Llama

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Edgeley [374 posts] 3 years ago
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I am gobsmacked. Bad taste, bad research, victim blaming nonsense. Utterly appalling. What utter w@nkers they are, and what utter w@nkers failed to veto this pile of toss.

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awkward [64 posts] 3 years ago
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Karmarama decided to act,
But neglected to check any fact,
Their humour's a crime,
Their limericks don't rhyme,
They really are a bunch of wankers...

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lushmiester [189 posts] 3 years ago
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There was once an agency called TfL
who doubled it's bike hire price
Cos it kept putting riders on ice
Bad road design
appalling signs
who paid the price?
The riders on ice

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Mr Agreeable [172 posts] 3 years ago
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There once were some Nu Meeja hacks
Who equated dead cyclists with twats
But with failure to charm
They prevented no harm
And they mostly got up people's backs

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Simon_MacMichael [2457 posts] 3 years ago
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Gkam - I think for a London-based ad agency, Shoreditch is about as 'East' as it gets  3

Gazza-d: "Our clients include Nintendo, Plusnet, Costa, BBC and Wells & Young's" - so that's BBC with their cycling coverage, Costa sponsored Rapha-Condor in Tour of Britain...

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gazza_d [465 posts] 3 years ago
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Aye, found it also. Google is great! sent a Tweet with the link to the campaign to the twitter accounts of those companies..

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Doctor Fegg [143 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

A half-witted latter-day Barley
Hatched an ad campaign wrecked up on Charlie
"Single-speed's SO last week
Now it's all retro chic
You should check out my 70s Raaaaleigh"

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INBFC [12 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

You don't need those Uzis and Colts
You murderous van-driving dolts!
Run over a bike!
As hard as you like!
'Cos it's always the cyclist's fault

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Littlehuan [46 posts] 3 years ago
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That Dutch vid was of a lorry running a zebra crossing at speed. And the cyclist is at fault how exactly? Shocking.

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SpamSpamSpam [20 posts] 3 years ago
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Today I've read and have found
Karmarama are really not sound
With a little luck
They'll be hit by a truck
Coz what goes around comes around

or

Cnuts cnuts cnuts cnuts cnuts cnuts cnuts
Cnuts cnuts cnuts cnuts cnuts cnuts cnuts
Karmarama are cnuts
Karmarama are cnuts
Cnuts cnuts cnuts cnuts cnuts cnuts cnuts

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CraigS [129 posts] 3 years ago
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I want to drive really fast,
So cyclists are pains in the arse,
I saw one run red,
So I'll hit them and leave them for dead,
'Cause it's never the fault of twats in their cars.

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dave atkinson [6251 posts] 3 years ago
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'twas an ad firm designer's ass-hattery
to blame road deaths on just cycle twattery
but he's taken the rap
'cause his rhyming was crap
let's just say that he's no tony slattery

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INBFC [12 posts] 3 years ago
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Arf! Dave, you can't win your own competition...

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mingmong [263 posts] 3 years ago
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Roses are blue
Violets are red
Mix cycling with twattery..
And you'll be dead.

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Doctor Fegg [143 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

An ad agency from (guess where?) Shoreditch
Launched a campaign that was more than just boorish
The concept was crass
The rhymes? Pulled out their ass
It was all a bit new-media-whore-ish

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Simon_MacMichael [2457 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Twat cyclists were held in the wrong
By an ad firm that loves its ping-pong
That’s whiff-whaff to Boris
But it’s actually lorries
Where most of the blame must belong

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CraigS [129 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Some bad drivers talk on their phones,
But they'll still have a good old moan,
At bad cyclists who run red,
Claiming all of them deserve to be dead,
Whilst a metal box protects their own bones.

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steff [81 posts] 3 years ago
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To Karmarama I say "you first". What an irredeemable shower of bell ends.

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Jon [33 posts] 3 years ago
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An agency called Karmarama
Wants to blame the harmee not the harmer
But shifting the blame
Is not only lame
It gives bike-hating petrolheads cause to think they are in the right as they rev aggressively before overtaking round a blind corner and forcing you off the road, the wankers - thanks Karmarama!

(Well their last line doesn't scan so I don't see why mine has to.)

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andyspaceman [246 posts] 3 years ago
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I don't like all of what Karmarama say,
But I ride across London every day.
Most of the close calls,
From Canary Wharf to St Paul's,
Are caused by cyclists acting this way.

I'm just saying like...

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Edgeley [374 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Apparently when I nearly got hit
By a red running BMW driving git
I was too dark to be seen
And my light can't have been green
Because it is always the fault of the cyclist who is apparently a twat and goes out of his way to become a statistic.

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graham_f [192 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
awkward wrote:

Karmarama decided to act,
But neglected to check any fact,
Their humour's a crime,
Their limericks don't rhyme,
They really are a bunch of wankers...

Gets my vote. Brilliant!

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spen [130 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Notice that they've had to take a video by CycleMickey down for copy right infringnment. As most of the fotage seems to have seen on Silly Cyclists perhaps CyclingGaz could notify the other and encourage them to do the same. And just what is the relevance of a Dutch video?

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dave atkinson [6251 posts] 3 years ago
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spen wrote:

Notice that they've had to take a video by CycleMickey down for copy right infringnment. As most of the fotage seems to have seen on Silly Cyclists perhaps CyclingGaz could notify the other and encourage them to do the same. And just what is the relevance of a Dutch video?

especially a dutch video showing an hgv speeding across a crossing where there's a bike waiting to cross

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IHphoto [116 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Those silly young mad-men, Karmarama,
got us all worked up in a lather,
we'll show their clients the stats
the stupid prats
they'll find what goes around comes around much harder

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rich22222 [165 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I think if I lived in London I would be out with some spray cans making suitable amendments, (suggestion to anyone who does?)  16

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pjay [251 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Yes, creative defacing of the signs is the way forward.

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