France has just banned a commercial for a Dutch bicycle over concerns that the commercial creates a “climate of fear” about cars. The ad, which has been aired on both Dutch and German television, is apparently worrying France’s advertising regulation authority, as they believe the ad unfairly discredits the automobile industry.
The ad, for the VanMoof e-bike, features a shiny black car reflecting images of chimneys, flashing emergency lights, and traffic jams. The car then melts and transforms into the VanMoof bike, with the caption, “Time to ride the future.” According to the French advertising code, exploitation of fear and suffering is prohibited in commercials, and this ad is considered to be in violation of that code.
In a letter to VanMoof, the Autorité de Régulation Professionnelle de la Publicité (ARPP) wrote, “Some images in the reflection of the car are, in our opinion, unbalanced and discredit the entire car sector. The images of factories/chimneys and an accident create a climate of fear. So they will have to be adapted.”
VanMoof replied by accusing the watchdog group of trying to protect the French car industry. Taco Carlier, the founder of VanMoof, vowed not to edit or make any changes to the commercial. “It is amazing,” he said, “that car companies are allowed to cover up their environmental problems while censoring those who question this issue.”
According to Stephane Martin, chairman of the ARPP, it’s simply an issue of fairness. “We cannot afford to put entire sectors in a bad light. That is an important precondition for fair competition. In some areas, that commercial goes too far, with images that are unnecessary, such as the smoke from factory chimneys, which have nothing to do with the car industry.”