ASA: Spreading the fear to kids

This advert was brought to my attention a while back. It is for some car (yawn) but the ad also featured cyclists as well. A complaint was made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA):


A TV ad, for Citroën, featured a cyclist pulling up behind a Citroën C4 at a set of traffic lights on a busy urban street. Other cyclists joined him until there was a large crowd of cyclists pursuing the C4. 


A viewer, who noted that none of the cyclists featured in the ad were wearing cycling helmets, challenged whether the ad was appropriate to be broadcast at times when children were likely to be watching, because it could condone and encourage behaviour prejudicial to their health and safety.

Assessment (Upheld)

The ASA considered that adults and older children would understand that the scenario depicted in the ad was fantastical and set apart from reality, because of the sheer number of cyclists involved, the lack of cars in their immediate vicinity and the fact that they were cycling in unison and chasing the C4. We therefore concluded that the ad did not condone behaviour prejudicial to the health and safety of adults and older children and was unlikely to cause harm to them.
However, we considered that younger children might not appreciate the fantastical nature of the ad and might consider that the ad represented a real-life scenario. We were therefore concerned that the ad might encourage younger children to emulate a behaviour prejudicial to their health and safety, and therefore concluded that the ad should have been given an ‘ex kids’ scheduling restriction to ensure that it was not broadcast at times when younger children were likely to be watching.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 5.2 (Children) and 32.3 (Scheduling).
We also investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 4.1 and 4.4 (Harm and offence) but did not find it in breach.”

The message from the ASA here is that cycling without a helmet is a behaviour, “Prejudicial to [childrens’] health and safety.” This has already been established to be false. However, the main issue here is that the ASA have not been fair with respect to the issue of safety, and behaviour which children might emulate. The driver of the car in the ad was not wearing a motoring helmet, a behaviour which children might emulate which would actually be, “Prejudicial to their health and safety.” It could also easily be argued that advertisements showing people travelling by car, “Might encourage younger children to emulate a behaviour prejudicial to their health and safety.”

The ASA, by classifying adverts of this nature as, “Ex kids,” on these grounds have managed to help perpetuate the mistaken beliefs that cycling is a particularly high-risk activity, that helmets are effective in the event of a crash with a motor vehicle, and the sadly prevailing ideology that the responsibility for minimising the risks posed to cyclists in the event of this type of crash (with the aid of ineffectual safety equipment) lies with the cyclist victim, rather than (by the moderation of dangerous driver behaviour) with the driver whose vehicle is the actual source of the danger.

Considering the relative risk posed to children by travelling by car, and the significantly greater benefits afforded to motorists in comparison to cyclists by helmet-wearing in the event of a crash, maybe we should be complaining to the ASA whenever an advert depicting people travelling by car without a motoring helmet is shown in the advert breaks surrounding children’s programming.


3 thoughts on “ASA: Spreading the fear to kids

  1. Maybe it was a quiet week at the ASA and the staff needed to look busy by making this absurd decision.The viewer who complained is probably earning a nice living at some council as a health and safety 'officer'. What a weirdo.

  2. @peteIt's a shame it wasn't a quiet week when they received a complaint about a Peugeot ad which mislead viewers with the incorrect term "Road Tax," perpetuating the misconception that road building and upkeep is paid for by motorists, with the following misconception that this entitles them to a greater right over their use.At least it didn't show a driver who wasn't wearing a helmet though.

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