French advertising watchdog blocks Vanmoof ad for encouraging people to think differently on transport

The Autorité de Régulation Professionelle de la Publicité (that’s the French equivalent to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority) has blocked a Vanmoof television advert that encourages consumers to think outside of the car for transport.

Promoting the firm’s new S3 and X3 electric bikes, the advert begins by showing a glossy sports car, adorned to which are reflections of imagery depicting congestion, car crash damage and pollution. The car then melts and remolds into the shape of Vanmoof’s electric bikes.

The 45 second ad apparently prompted the French advertising regulators to brand the clip as “giving the automotive industry a bad name, while creating a climate of fear.”

Taco Carlier, co-Founder at Vanmoof said of the rejection: “We have always been aware that this commercial is nothing like an average bicycle advertisement. It is an impetus for action, an opportunity to leave the past behind and make real progress that will benefit everyone. Questioning the status quo will always lead to confrontation, but we wanted to achieve that from the start.”

The ARPP has responded to the criticism in robust fashion, with President Stéphane Martin stating: “It’s a great classic to attack independence and try to gain space and free media coverage by yelling about censorship. We cannot afford to discredit sectors of activity. It is a great principle of fair competition. We shouldn’t fall into the ease of bashing if we just have to promote our product. Some plans are exaggerated. Sometimes this commercial goes too far with inappropriate images, such as factory chimney smoke, which has nothing to do with the auto industry. ”

According to NieuwsFiets, the advertising watchdog has in recent times pledged to bolster the sustainability aspects of their policies, having in the past been embroiled in controversies where the likes of GreenPeace and other NGOs have called the organisation out for lack of neutrality.

Ties Carlier, also of Vanmoof added: “It is amazing that car companies are allowed to cover up their environmental problems while censoring those who question this issue.”

The advert has been broadcast on both Dutch and German television. Vanmoof added in a release that it notes the French car industry has been hampered by a vast decline in demand for cars due to Covid-19.

“To support the sector, which is responsible for nearly a third of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, the government recently announced a € 8 billion recovery plan. At the same time, the demand for high-quality e-bikes is fueled by social distance measures,” said the brand.

Vanmoof has pledged not to dilute its advert in order to appear on French networks.

Alfa-Claude Djalo, VanMoof’s communications manager in France said: “Our message is strong, but there is no controversy and the pollution of the car reflects a situation that many city residents face. I imagine it can be disturbing, but it remains a reality.”

Vanmoof has a history of creative and guerrilla style advertising campaigns, going to great lengths to create its own content. Hits have included printing TV imagery on boxes to reduce courier damage, as well as creating videos of the brands staff traveling the globe to track down thieves of its customer’s bikes.