The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has rejected three complaints about a video released by clothing manufacturer Proviz last year which highlighted the safety features of its Reflect 360 cycling jacket but which stood accused, among other things, of “scaremongering” over the issue of the safety of bike riders.
Released in November, the interactive video produced by ad agency AMV BBDO enabled viewers to toggle between views of a cyclist wearing one of the jackets and the same rider without one to see how it improved their visibility to motorists. You can view it here.
As we pointed out at the time, the ending of the video, where the cyclist not wearing the jacket was hit by a car, was likely to prove controversial, and that was indeed the grounds for one of the three areas of complaint summarised by the ASA as follows:
1. The ad exaggerated the visibility and brightness of the product;
2. The ad, in particular the scene showing the cyclist in a non-reflective jacket being hit by a car, was harmful and amounted to scaremongering, because it implied that cyclists who did not wear the jacket were likely to be killed or injured on the road; and,
3. The ad misleadingly implied that complying with the legal requirements was inadequate from a safety perspective, and that cyclists who did not wear reflective jackets were therefore at fault if an accident occurred, because they contended that a bike which was properly fitted with lights and pedal reflectors, in line with the legal requirements, would be adequately visible to traffic and that reflective jackets were not legally required.
Both Proviz and BBDO said that neither the jacket nor the lights on the bike had been manipulated, and in support of that gave a detailed explanation of the production process of the video.
They also said the interactive nature of the video enabled viewers to judge for themselves the jacket’s reflective properties, and that “they did not claim that the Proviz jacket rendered cyclists invincible, or that failing to wear one did the opposite.”
Furthermore, they said the ad “conveyed the message that cyclists were more visible whilst wearing a piece of high visibility clothing and believed that could not be better demonstrated by the fact that all rescue services globally wore high visibility clothing, as did a very large percentage of cyclists on the roads.”
On the first point, the ASA said that some elements of the reflectiveness of the jacket as it appeared in the film were due to post-production techniques, and that “in a 'real life' setting, the jacket would not appear constantly lit in the dark, as it did in the ad, because the reflectiveness would depend on the lights and illuminations caused by passing traffic and streetlights.”
But in rejecting the first area of complaint, it added that “on balance, the ad did not exaggerate the visibility and brightness of the product.”
Rejecting the second area of complaint, the ASA said: “Although we acknowledged that the ad set up an emotive scenario and made use of dramatic music, we did not consider that the ad went so far as to imply that it was only by wearing the advertiser's jacket that cyclists would avoid serious accidents.
“We concluded that the ad was not harmful and did not amount to scaremongering.”
Turning to the third point, the ASA ruled that “the ad was unlikely to mislead” because they “did not consider that the ad went so far as to imply that it was only by wearing the advertiser's jacket that cyclists would comply with the relevant UK legal safety requirements or that they would avoid being at fault if an accident occurred.”
Proviz said at the time the video was released that it was donating £5 from every sale to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, with the company’s co-founder, Anthony Langly-Smith, saying: "Most cyclists understand the importance of being seen when cycling at night, but many cyclists are riding with little or no reflective material.
"The video highlights the Proviz Reflect 360 cycling jacket, which is made exclusively from reflective material and has been in high demand this winter.
“We hope viewers will play around with the video and share it with friends and family so that as many cyclists as possible are aware of the safety benefits of being seen at night."
The ASA’s full ruling can be found here.
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.