Aw-shucks. GM Blunders onto Campus

Not everything the auto lobby does today is greenwash. There is plenty of that about of course, but in addition the honeyed words that are constantly articulated to calm our raging democratic spirits and to bring us to believe that we are all in the same side in this one big happy sustainable family, there are occasions in which the industry and its more hapless proponents fall back into a blatant posture of pure meanness of spirit. As an example let us take a look at a recent vicious campaign of General Motors to sell their cars to young people, at any cost to their future well-being. Continue reading

"Should car advertising be more heavily regulated, etc., etc." More on, this time from Canada

Yesterday’s feature article under this title generated a number of immediate comments and responses from readers in Australia, Canada and Germany, including the following announced “Canadian Code of Advertising Standards re Motor Vehicle Advertising”, a “stakeholder approach” to dealing with these thorny issues. We produce it here in its essentials together with URLs for further information. But does it actually do the job?

Richard Campbell from Vancouver Canada wrote in this morning as follows: “There are similar standards in Canada that just came into effect. http://www.adstandards.com/en/MediaAndEvents/newInterpretationGuideline.aspx. The Guideline was developed to help ensure that motor vehicle advertisements are created to comply with the spirit of Canadian road safety laws.

It includes eight broad principles, in the form of questions, which will provide guidance to motor vehicle manufacturers and their advertising agencies in the production of advertising that is creative and effective, while respecting road safety concerns and conforming to the Code. The Guideline encompasses such issues as speeding, aggressive and unsafe behaviour, and depictions of races or competitions. Here is the complaint procedure: http://www.adstandards.com/en/ConsumerComplaints/theConsumerComplaintsProcess.aspx

Canadian Code of Advertising Standards re Motor Vehicle Advertising

Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) maintains the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (Code), the principal instrument of advertising self-regulation in Canada. The Code sets the standards for acceptable advertising and forms the basis for receipt and review of consumers’ complaints about Canadian advertising. The Code is augmented by Interpretation Guidelines that are designed to enhance industry and public understanding of the interpretation and application of the clauses of the Code.

On September 24, 2009, ASC published and implemented Interpretation Guideline #4 – Alleged Infractions of Clauses #10 or #14: Motor Vehicle Advertising. The Guideline was developed to help ensure that motor vehicle advertisements are created to comply with the spirit of Canadian road safety laws. It includes eight broad principles, in the form of questions, which will provide guidance to motor vehicle manufacturers and their advertising agencies in the production of advertising that is creative and effective, while respecting road safety concerns and conforming to the Code. The Guideline encompasses such issues as speeding, aggressive and unsafe behaviour, and depictions of races or competitions.

Developed by a working group, the motor vehicle advertising guideline initiative was led by the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ), in conjunction with ASC, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada, the Association of Canadian Advertisers and the Association des agences de publicité du Québec.

The working group was convened following the adoption of legislative provisions obligating the SAAQ to “in collaboration with automobile manufacturers, advertising agencies and highway safety stakeholders …establish guidelines aimed at prohibiting any advertisement that portrays a road vehicle and conveys a careless attitude with respect to road safety by presenting situations that encourage reckless, dangerous or prohibited practices or behaviour.” The auto advertising issue was of interest to other Canadian jurisdictions, several of whom joined the working group (Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and Transport Canada.) The working group’s adoption of the Guideline was supported by all Canadian jurisdictions.

The positive cooperation from the other stakeholders meant that the guidelines could be built on the existing self-regulatory structure, thereby avoiding the need to adopt more binding measures. (Our emphasis.)

* Click here for the new Guideline: http://www.adstandards.com/en/MediaAndEvents/newInterpretationGuideline.aspx

Interpretation Guideline #4 – Alleged Infractions of Clauses 10 or 14: Motor Vehicle Advertising1

(Editor’s note: These are the “eight questions” referred to above.)

4.1 When evaluating complaints about advertising involving depictions of motorized vehicles that allegedly contravene Clause 10 (Safety), Council will take into account the following questions:

a. Does the depiction of the performance, power or acceleration of the vehicle convey the impression that it is acceptable to exceed speed limits?

b. Does the depiction of a vehicle’s handling ability involve potentially unsafe actions such as cutting in and out of traffic, excessively aggressive driving, or car chases in a residential setting?

c. Does the depiction appear realistic or does it appear to be unreal, as in a fantasy-like scenario that is unlikely to be copied or emulated in real life?

d. Would it be reasonable to interpret the depicted situation as condoning or encouraging unsafe driving practices?

4.2 When evaluating complaints involving depictions in automobile advertising that allegedly contravene Clause 10 (Safety) or Clause 14 (Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals), Council also will take into account the following questions developed and endorsed by the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada and the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association:

a. Is the vehicle operated in violation of applicable laws or beyond reasonable speed under the circumstances taking into account the portrayed road, weather, traffic and surrounding conditions (e.g. children in the area,) or over usual speed limits in Canada?

b. Does the depiction of the performance, power or acceleration and braking of the vehicle, taking into consideration the advertisement as a whole including visual (both images and text) and audio messages convey the impression that it is acceptable to exceed speed limits or to otherwise operate a vehicle unsafely or illegally?

c. Does the depiction of racing and rallies, and of other competition environments, taking into consideration the advertisement as a whole including visual (both images and text) and audio messages, convey the impression that production vehicles could be driven like racing or competition vehicles on a public roadway?

d. Is the advertisement encouraging or endorsing vehicle use that is aggressive, violent or injurious toward other road users, or that denigrates or disparages cautious behaviour when using a vehicle?

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Editor’s commentary:

This proposal strikes these eyes as a possible step in the right direction; however we fear that calls for “reasonable behavior” will be about as well accepted by the main actors involved in this sector as it would be in the more aggressive edge of the financial community.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Self-regulation? Getting agreement from the “main stakeholders”? Whoa. You or I can say anything but the only thing that counts is what we do.

We do not see that anything of worth can be achieved in this domain unless there are real teeth to it. Where are the teeth? Where is the responsibility? Where is the good governance needed as a framework for working democracy, healthy entrepreneurship and society?

I don’t think that we can responsibly run away from this one.

Eric Britton,
Editor, World Streets

Question: Should car advertizing be more heavily regulated? Or taxed? Or mandate compensatory advertizing? Or or . . . ?

Our sustainable colleagues over at Nuova Mobilità, our Italian-language sister publication, have shown more consistent aggressiveness concerning debating the issues of car advertising then we (which points out the advantages of diversity) — but from time to time we too consider that it is useful to give this some thought and dialogue. N/M picked up the following quite contentious article on the subject today from the Guardian, which we are also pleased to share with you for your information and comment. (Ours appear at the end of this article).

Want to promote cycling? Cut back car adverts now

- Tom Bogdanowicz, guardian.co.uk. London. Wednesday, 17 February 2010.

The UK spends £500m a year on car ads and fetishises auto-ownership – no wonder cycling is stuck in the slow lane

Step out of your home and what do you see? There is a subliminal and overt message on the streets and in the media to buy cars and use them. You’ll find it on TV, on your computer, in the newspapers you read. It makes the promotion of any other form or transport, such as cycling, an uphill struggle regardless of how convenient, healthy and sustainable it may be.

The advertising spend on the promotion of motor vehicles in the UK exceeds £500m a year. And, by and large, it works: car ownership has grown steadily since the 1940s and, after the current economic crisis abates, it will likely continue to do so.

In sharp contrast, the promotion of cycling and walking is almost non-existent. When Transport for London ran a TV ad promoting cycling it was a unique occasion. The number of cyclists on UK roads has dropped sharply since the 1940s, and London stands out as a rare example of a city where cycling has doubled in six years.

While the government encourages us to walk, ride bikes and use public transport, it knows that car advertising is persuading us to do the exact opposite. Instead of sharing one car, households buy two or three so that everyone can express their own personality through their vehicle. If you believe the advertising, your car will make you more attractive, more popular and more successful. How many car ads show the reality of being stuck in traffic or the frustration of searching for a parking space?

Cycling gets the occasional media boost when team GB sweeps the Olympic medals or cycling in London soars, as more people realise it’s faster around town than driving. But very few companies pay big money for bike ads, so newspapers don’t have cycling sections – with notable exceptions, such as this blog – and there is no cycling equivalent of Top Gear.

The outcome of all that PR for cars is more sales as well as more congestion, more pollution and a greater demand for scarce parking spaces. There would have been no need for the congestion charge in London if not for the success of the auto industry’s publicity machine and the popularity of motoring programmes.

Reversing the trend of ever-increasing car ownership and use is not as difficult as it seems. If governments were to limit car advertising, as they did with alcohol and tobacco when the health impacts were recognised, people would take decisions about their mode of transport based on common sense rather than the promise of open highways, high speeds and glamorous locations. Common sense might well encourage cycling or walking for more journeys.

The survival of cycling as a transport mode and its growth in London is a tribute to its convenience and simplicity. Surveys show that one-in-five of us would like to cycle. If the barriers to cycling were removed – such as perceived danger and a lack of cycling infrastructure – cycle journeys in the UK might increase tenfold to the levels seen in Holland or Denmark. The benefits are obvious: more cycling and walking would help prevent health problems as well as climate change.

Holland is lucky to have invested in cycling before car-oriented planning created a road system that discourages cycle use. The UK, unfortunately, has seen several decades of car-centred planning. But, as London shows, the UK can still join the virtuous circle. Local traffic management schemes can be redesigned to allow cyclists through them and urban gyratories can be removed.

If reduced auto promotion stemmed the growth in car ownership as well, we could see more people cycling and drivers might discover that the roads were less busy and parking spaces easier to come by. In fact, there is little choice; Britain’s urban population continues to grow – unless we enable people to cycle and walk more, and stop persuading them to use cars, we face gridlock.

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About the author:
• Tom Bogdanowicz is campaigns and development officer for the London Cycle Campaign

* Source: guardian.co.uk. http://tinyurl.com/yb7ssh9

* Reader comments here: http://tinyurl.com/yznghcu


From the editor: A Personal Reflection:

It is not exactly that recourse to the law is the last refuge of a scoundrel, but it – that is the crude hammer of the law – is certainly the last refuge of citizens and political leaders who are not able to come up with a better and softer path to get the job done. Which is to say that we approach matters like this with a heavy heart, but then are ready to hear the arguments from both sides, all while not forgetting what sustainability and social justice are all about.

The bottom line: As an essentially naïve person, I always tend to confound or confuse (or wish hopefully about) advertising as having primarily an information function. Of course when any of us has a point we wish to make, there is also a human tendency to try to make that point in a way which renders it agreeable for the public you are trying to get on your side. At one point of course this can become a matter of more even than simple cajoling , namely attempting behavior modification, and this brings us in front of an ethical choice, or maybe better a dilemma.

I, and I am almost certain you also, have reached the conclusion that advertising in public places and the media can be extremely useful in matters in which society is having a problem or two: smoking too much, speeding too fast, drug dependency, various forms of unfair discrimination, the long list goes on. No reasonable person can deplore the intelligent and in a surprising number of cases pretty effective advertising/information campaigns that have been run over the last several decades in order to modify behavior of large numbers of people and create really a better and safer society for all. Moreover I, and once again I bet you too, want to see more of this done wisely and effectively.

Now back to our topic, namely the at least highly dubious habits of the automobile industry advertising practices. And here I have to put my cards on the table and state that I am not an anti-car guy. I have had quite a range of cars over the years which by and large I greatly appreciated and I think have used wisely. On the other hand, we are all increasingly aware that as things stand today there are many situations in which “own-cars” are not always necessarily the best way to get around every day (particularly in cities of course). Anyway, we shall soon enough have a billion of them raring to go all over the planet, so it is our job as citizen-guardians of the concept of sustainable transportation to provide perspective and, if we can manage it, wise counsel as to what exactly is going to be their proper place in society. After all, that is what governance is all about.

For starters, anyone would have to be blind or soft in the head not to see the pernicious qualities of much of the car advertising that we presently have in our various print and electronic media. Much of this goes well beyond giving us simple information about their products, and with the help of very sophisticated media specialists and experts in behavioral psychology often combine to create pattern and attitudes which are far from being in the public interest.

The fixation with speed, the subtle ways of manipulating and implying speed as a personal (to some) if not a social value — and hey! everybody knows that speed kills — gives us a great place to start. Some of the rest is more puzzling and is going to be more difficult, so until we can sort this out, speed gives us a good training ground to get going and figure out how to handle the rest.

My position on this today then is that I feel there is every reason for the vigorous public debate in as many fora and places as can be reached. Tom Bogdanowicz’s points are worthy of reflection, and it is good to see him looking at all of this from the perspective of cyclists. And if you click here – http://tinyurl.com/yznghcu – you will be taken to the extremely lively commentary that his article has excited, and which also might find it useful to spend the time with.

I wish I could tell you that I have a way to wrap this up so that you can put it all behind you and move on to other things. But I cannot and so as resourceful citizens we have to keep thinking about it, talking about it, and pretty soon doing something about it.

Eric Britton
Editor, World Streets

It’s time you too rolled up your sleeves and got involved.

World Streets, it says right at the top of the page, is a collaborative, sharing effort. After a first year of proving its worth edition after edition, five days a week, bringing hundreds of carefully selected news items, expert views, questions, comments, inspirations, and leads to the desks of more than one hundred thousand visitors from more than seventy countries on all continents (that was our “business plan”) , World Streets is now reaching out to get active sponsorship and support for 2010. We need your help to continue. So it’s time for you to dig in and lend a hand. (And this is not only about money – keep reading.)
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Honk! Ms. Veronica Moss loves cars more than people. (And she is not afraid to say so.)

In the interest of fairness, now that you have heard from a high source about how best to deal with all those common people getting in your way in India’s crowded streets, you now have a chance to spend a few minutes with Ms. Veronica Moss, who has some points to make about the dangers of ceding valuable public space to ordinary people in the middle of New York City.

Just in today from our friends at StreetFilms in New York. In their words:

Veronica Moss Visits Times Square

by Clarence Eckerson, Jr. on November 16, 2009 |

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Honk! Quite incredible they would fall for this. (More on anti-social advertising in old mobility)

It is a rare day when anyone gets the matters which concern us all here quite as wrong as our friends from Bosch have it here. (One of a series of particularly egregious advertising abuses on the part of certain old mobility purveyors who just do not seem to be able to resist the temptation.)
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Cars like cigarettes? NoAuto calls for immediate limitations on car advertising in Italy

World Streets is by no means an anti-car paper. However if you follow us you may have noticed that we have some pretty developed ideas as to fewer cars, slower cars, and, when we have them on the road, with more people in each of them. But above all, more choices for all. At the same time we keep an eye on friends like NoAuto in Italy, who are pushing for tighter controls on automobile advertisements. (And who in their right mind can argue with that?)

The following text represents a loose translation of the introduction to an article which appeared in our sister publication, Nuova Mobilità – http://nuovamobilita.org – on Tuesday. After this short introduction you will be able to click to the original posting in Italian or to a machine translation in English.

From NoAuto:

Over the years we have become accustomed to seeing television and other public advertisements showing cars in situations that are at least improbable, often dangerous, and certainly not appropriate for a sane and responsible society.

But can advertising policy and practices be redefined so as not to be misleading and frankly dangerous?

Yes it can. There are already limitations on advertising for other unsafe products such as cigarettes, dictated by the importance of protecting public health. Why not introduce similar limitations for publicity for cars?

Certainly when it comes to talking publicly and commercially about what is perceived as the most “common” means of transport, at least in the minds of many people in the Western world, we will do well to learn some of the lessons from the various campaign around the world which over the last decade have created significant constraints on advertising for (and public use of) cigarettes and other noxious tobacco products.

The benefits resulting in a decrease in cigarette consumption are widely recognized and now after years of work on the part of medical and public health interests accepted –while those arising from a change of travel behavior are in the collective imagination, at least thus far, counterbalanced by an alleged decline in the quality of life. This of course is sheer nonsense.

For this reason the non-profit Italian public interest group NoAuto, Association for Alternative Urban Mobility, is announcing a campaign to introduce specific limits on car advertising . It is hope that this could at the same time to boost publicity and reflection on more responsible products, services and strategies relating to the field of New Mobility.

The following is the statement of NoAuto’s call for creation of a firm public policy concerning responsible advertising of cars.

* For the original Italian text, please click to http://nuovamobilita.blogspot.com/2009/11/lauto-come-le-sigarette.html

* For a quick machine translation into English – http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fnuovamobilita.blogspot.com%2F2009%2F11%2Flauto-come-le-sigarette.html&sl=it&tl=en&history_state0=

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NoAuto is an Italian public interest association promoting a system of mobility alternatives to the car: MORE public transport, safety for walking and cycling, decreased congestion and pollution, reconquest of urban space, healthier lives, are among the objectives. Their weekly paper hosts a regular feature of the association.

Read: www.noauto.org
Write: info@noauto.org