VanMoof electric bike ad banned in France for creating “climate of anxiety”

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VanMoof, the Dutch brand of electric bikes, is officially too hot for (French) television.

The company’s first television commercial was banned in France for its negative portrayal of car traffic and pollution. The ad was rejected by ARPP, the French advertising regulatory authority, because it “discredits[s] the automobile sector […] while creating a climate of anxiety. ”

The ad, which premiered on June 6 for television and the web, features scenes of traffic jams, vehicle accidents and exhaust pollution reflected on the surface of a sports car that finally starts to melt, giving way to the new VanMoof S3 electric bike. “The alternative to blocked highways and overflowing metros,” says the text. “It’s time to ride the future. “

But it was too much for the ARPP. In a letter to VanMoof, the regulatory agency accused the Dutch brand of unfairly casting a negative light on the automotive industry. The ARPP said the ad also violated the ad and the marketing code prohibiting the exploitation of feelings of “fear or suffering”. VanMoof is invited to modify the advertisement before resending it.

Naturally, VanMoof seeks to turn rejection into a PR win – and also a way to trumpet its unconventional approach to advertising. The company published a blog article on Tuesday touting the determination of the ARPP.

“We have always been aware that this advertisement is not your usual bicycle advertisement,” said Taco Carlier, co-founder of VanMoof. “It really is a call to action, a chance to leave the past behind and make real progress that benefits everyone. Challenging the status quo will always be in conflict, but that has been our goal from the start. “

VanMoof also points out that this is not the first time that the ARPP has been linked to the controversy. The organization has already been denounced for lack of neutrality by NGOs such as Greenpeace and Doctors of the World. But the ARPP defended its decision.

It’s a great classic to attack the independence we have, in fact, and to try to get free space and free media coverage by crying out at censorship, “said Stéphane Martin, CEO of ARPP. Radio France. “You shouldn’t get into the ease of bashing when you just have to promote your product. “

This is a strange turning point, especially for France where efforts to promote more sustainable modes of transport have become widespread. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, was recently re-elected almost exclusively on a platform for removing cars from cities to promote cycling and walking.

The problem seems to stem mainly from the disastrous conditions of the French automotive industry. Sales are falling in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic and the general economic decline. The government recently presented an 8 billion euro plan to bail out the auto sector.

Meanwhile, bicycle sales have increased in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the global lockout. Electric bike companies, in particular, are recording record sales. VanMoof is a direct-to-consumer business, which means that it bypasses traditional bicycle stores to sell its bikes online and through its own brand stores.

In May, the company said first quarter sales have increased dramatically compared to the same period last year, increasing in all of its major markets, including Germany (+ 226%), the United United Kingdom (+ 184%), the Netherlands (+140 percent), the United States (+138 percent) and France (+92 percent). The lift was at least partially driven by discounts before the launch of its S3 and X3 electric bikes in April.

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