Wednesday 29 January 2014

ASA: Britain's newest and most inept road safety organisation

The much derided niceway code turns out to have had one  good outcome: It has put the ASA's opinions clearly on the table -and the opinion is "bicycles are not for Britain's roads"

This is the organisation that regularly dismisses all road tax complaints with a stock "not our fucking problem" reply:
Thank you for your recent complaint about a press ad by Toyota (GB) Plc for the Lexus CT.  I understand you object to the use of the term “Road Tax”.

We have assessed the ad and your complaint but consider that there are insufficient grounds for ASA intervention on this occasion.  Whilst we acknowledge that the correct term is indeed “Vehicle Excise Duty”, more commonly used phrases such as “Road Tax” are often used by advertisers to convey a message in a way that will be understood by the widest audience.  The requirements of the CAP Code are such that the ASA draws a distinction between technical inaccuracies and claims which are likely to mislead consumers to their detriment.  In this case we consider it unlikely that the use of a common term for this type of tax will mislead consumers to their detriment by influencing their transactional decisions in relation to the advertiser’s products and we will therefore not be taking further action on this occasion.  Please note that the ASA does not pass the details of complaints to advertisers if we consider that no action is required.  You would need to contact them directly with your concerns.

Yet the moment someone shows a picture of a woman cycling happily on a road, a car safely overtaking, then

This is the one they objected to? (img lifted from As Easy As Riding A Bike)

The one showing car drivers how to overtake a cyclist safely? The one whose whole point was to repeat the bit of the highway code showing how to pass safely?

The cyclist placement issue shows that ASA simply don't understand bicycles,  and resent the very idea of being held up by one for a miniscule moment of time. That's what their complaint is really about: the car being held up. The "they had to overtake" story is some kind of post-rationalisation -the cyclist is endangering others by the very act of being on the road.

The ASA is now defining road safety policy instead of the DfT. Badly

But look what the little bunnies have gone an done in the process: they have opened up the gate to complaints about any car advert:
we concluded the ad was socially irresponsible and likely to condone or encourage behaviour prejudicial to health and safety
Think about that. Think about the fact that the majority of deaths in city streets were caused by cars and lorries. Think about the fact that driving is considered directly bad to the health of the driver -due to their failure to exercise. Think about the fact that the pollution caused by the cars causes the  indirect death of many.

By adding social responsibility and health and safety to their policy with regard to vehicle-related adverts, the ASA have just opened the gate to a complaint about any advert that shows a car being driven in an urban environment.

The F-type Jaguar advert linked off As Easy as Riding a Bike's post on the topic, Is an example. There is a car being driven at speed along the Cannes seafront, while people look alongside. This shows dangerous driving near pedestrians.

  1. The ASA can't argue that it was safe as the road was closed -because the niceway code was filmed on a closed road too (clearly)
  2. There are pedestrians nearby -so condoning or encouraging behaviour prejudicial to health and safety.
It is now time for every cyclist -or anyone else- pissed off with the ASA ruling to pick a car advert and complain about it, using the very wording of the judgement against the ASA

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