France bans VanMoof’s edgy ebike advert for being ‘anti-car’

A television advert from VanMoof, an ebike maker based in the cycling motherland of the Netherlands, has been banned on French TV for a surprisingly contradictory reason.

The 45 second ad, which was released earlier this month, pictures a futuristic looking car melting into the ether, as sounds and images of congestion, police cars, riots, crisis, and protest play over the top.

For the times we live in, it’s poignant stuff — but it seems too powerful for the French. Check it out below:

According to Dutch marketing news outlet, Adformatie, the advert was banned by the French advertising watchdog ARPP for inciting a “climate of fear.” The ARPP also said that the advert gives the car industry a bad name — but that’s not really the problem.

[Read: Don’t get your hopes up, Tesla probably isn’t working on LiDAR for Autopilot]

The advert really does pull no punches. It makes the direct statement that in our overly congested cities and world in the midst of a climate crisis, cars are not the answer. Instead, VanMoof wants you to ride one of their ebikes, ok, it is an advert after all.

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The issue then isn’t the car, or the car industry; the issue lies in the individual choices we make when it comes to personal transport. Bikes are not new, their benefits over cars have been known for decades. They’re healthier, easier to park, better for the environment, and in many inner city cases, faster than driving. But we still keep driving into cities that are bursting at the seams and full of life-ending pollution.

Clearly we need a wake-up call, and that’s what VanMoof is trying to deliver.

In a translated statement to Adformatie, VanMoof founder Taco Carlier said: “We have always been aware that this commercial is nothing like an average bicycle advertisement. It is an impetus for action, an opportunity to leave the past behind and make real progress that will benefit everyone.”

“Questioning the status quo will always lead to a confrontation, but we wanted to achieve that from the beginning,” they added.

VanMoof S3 header image review
My colleague Callum Booth has reviewed a number of VanMoof machines over the years. Each time they get better, and we’re fans of them here at TNW.

As VanMoof pointed out, the ARPP’s decision is somewhat hypocritical. The agency has recently promised to put more emphasis on sustainable products, but banning a bicycle advert obviously doesn’t support that stance at all.

The climate crisis remains one of the most important challenges the globe faces today and it’s generally accepted that time to address it is fast running out. If we’re going to tackle the issue we need to make drastic changes and do it fast. It’s not fair that VanMoof should have its ad banned for actually trying to do something positive: get people out of cars and on to bikes, just because it’s hard to stomach.

[Watch: I love the new VanMoof S3 e-bike like it was my metallic daddy]

The reality of the world right now is distressing, but there’s plenty we can do about it. Arguably in this case, the ARPP banning VanMoof’s advert is only helping people to ignore or deny one of the most pressing issues of the day. The truth hurts, so it goes.

You can read VanMoof’s full statement on the matter here.

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