The controversial ad shows scenes of car accidents, pollution and traffic jams projected onto the body of a futuristic sports car before it melts to show off the company’s new bike. The overlay reads: “The alternative to blocked highways and overflowing metros. It’s time to ride the future. ”
This is the brand’s first television campaign for its new high-tech models, which have features for urban commuters, such as location tracking and on-board anti-theft devices.
The ad aired two weeks ago in the Netherlands and Germany, where it is said to have been well received by the public.
“We have always been aware that this advertisement is not your usual bicycle advertisement,” said VanMoof co-founder Taco Carlier in a statement. “It really is a call to action, a chance to leave the past behind and make real progress that benefits everyone.”
He says that “questioning the status quo” has always been controversial, but that it has been “VanMoof’s goal from the start”.
Lack of neutrality?
VanMoof says the decision is in contradiction with new cycling initiatives launched in Paris and the 300 million euros recently spent on improving cycling infrastructure. Mayor Anne Hidalgo was recently re-elected to the city with strong support for her walking and cycling platform.
Hidalgo has already spoken of the use of alternative modes of transportation after COVID-19.
Some suggest that the decision to remove the ad may be influenced by rapid decline in car sales in the country. After a 90% drop in sales during the coronavirus pandemic, French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged 8 billion euros to bail out the struggling industry.
Conversely, electric bike companies like VanMoof have seen their sales increase over the same period. Bike-eu reported that the number of people choosing electric bikes compared to the power of traditional pedals unexpectedly increased when bike shops reopened in Germany in April. In several regions, the brand saw sales more than double in the first three months of this year.
Advertising on environmental issues
Speaking to Radio France, the director general of the ARPP, Stéphane Martin, defended this decision by saying that it was “classic to attack the independence that we have”. He said the smoking chimneys featured in the ad were not directly related to traffic.
Martin also called out to brands that were trying to “defeat others” when promoting their own products. He added that it was easy for VanMoof to say that they were silenced in order to generate media attention around their launch.
But this is not the first time that advertising in France has been the subject of controversy around environmental campaigns. Earlier this year a 60 second film from Greenpeace denouncing the inaction of political decision-makers on climate issues was rejected by the advertising agencies of the Paris metro for having been “too political”.
The electric bike brand believes that the rejection of their announcement shows a “lack of neutrality” on the part of the ARPP, which does not represent their recent commitment to strengthen sustainability in their policies.
“It is surprising that automakers are allowed to ignore their environmental concerns, but when someone disputes this situation, it is censored,” said VanMoof co-founder Ties Carlier.