Crystal Palace Transition Town Transport Group

A thought experiment – drinking and driving, in the light of ASA’s cycle safety views

This is something I wrote a while ago, but thought it was topical in the light of the recent Nice Way Code / Advertising Standards Authority controversy, in which a Nice Way Code ad was banned due to depicting a cyclist riding without a helmet, in the centre of the lane (on a suburban minor road)  – apparently “behaviour likely to endanger health and safety”.

The original was written in response to a suggestion by Mikael @ Copenhagenize that car ads should carry similar warnings to cigarette packets. I suggested that, in a UK context (where cigarette advertising is largely prohibited), it might instead be interesting to draw parallels to the Advertising Standards Agency’s stringent rules on the advertising of alcohol.

The original ASA rules can be viewed here; I took the above, substituting only where necessary with the closest analogy I could find, (“drinking” for “driving”, “cars” etc.), and arrived at the following.

  1. Marketing communications must be socially responsible and must contain nothing that is likely to lead people to adopt styles of driving that are unwise. Care should be taken not to exploit the young, the immature or those who are mentally or socially vulnerable.
  2. Marketing communications must not claim or imply that a car can enhance confidence or popularity.
  3. Marketing communications must not imply that driving a car is a key component of the success of a personal relationship or social event.
  4. Driving must not be portrayed as a challenge. Marketing communications must neither show, imply, encourage or refer to aggression or unruly, irresponsible or anti-social behaviour nor link driving with brave, tough or daring people or behaviour.
  5. Marketing communications must neither link cars with seduction, sexual activity or sexual success nor imply that being seen in one can enhance attractiveness.
  6. Marketing communications must not imply that cars might be indispensable or take priority in life or that owning a car can by itself overcome boredom, loneliness or other problems.
  7. Marketing communications must not imply that driving has therapeutic qualities. Driving must not be portrayed as capable of changing mood, physical condition (except making you fat) or behaviour.
  8. Marketing communications must not imply that cars can enhance mental or physical capabilities; for example, by contributing to professional or sporting achievements.
  9. Marketing communications must not imply that a car may be preferred because of its speed or thrilling handling. There is an exception for eco-cars, which may be presented as preferable because of their low engine power. In the case of a car with relatively high performance in relation to its category, the factual information should not be given undue emphasis.
  10. Marketing communications that include a sales promotion must not imply, condone or encourage excessive car use.
  11. Marketing communications must not feature cars being handled or used irresponsibly.
  12. Marketing communications must not link cars with activities or locations in which driving would be unsafe or unwise.
  13. Only in exceptional circumstances may marketing communications feature people driving in their working environment.
  14. Marketing communications must not be likely to appeal particularly to people under 18, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. They should not feature or portray real or fictitious characters who are likely to appeal particularly to people under 18 in a way that might encourage the young to drive. People shown driving or playing a significant role (see rule 18.16) should not be shown behaving in an adolescent or juvenile manner.
  15. Marketing communications must not be directed at people under 18 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear. No medium should be used to advertise cars if more than 25% of its audience is under 18 years of age.
  16. People shown driving or playing a significant role must neither be nor seem to be under 25. People under 25 may be shown in marketing communications, for example, in the context of family celebrations, but must be obviously not driving.
  17. Marketing communications may give factual information about product specifications, including comparisons, but must not make any health, fitness or weight-control claims. The only permitted performance claims are “high MPG”, “reduced fuel consumption” and “low emissions” and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer.


Would any car ads today fit within these guidelines..?

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