20 August 2008

How NOT to Promote Cycling


In the previous post we showed a fine Hungarian advert that promotes cycling. The Austin Bike Blog posted an advert that is running in the US during the Olympics and which ran during the Tour de France. It's for an American auto parts company called Autozone. As Elliot at Austin Bike Blog says:

In the AutoZone ad, a poor kid on a bike repairs an old clunker by the side of the road using parts for AutoZone. (I imagine he is paying for it with his minimum wage job with no health insurance at Walmart.) At the end he says,

“It basically took me the whole summer. And I don’t know how many times I need to go to AutoZone, but at least now when I go, it’s not on my bike.”

Yes, this poor schmuck has traded a low cost, self sufficient, health and wealth building form of transportation for a future of endless debt and a growing waist line (assuming that car will make it more than 500 miles.) Way to go, Autozone!""


What a difference between the two adverts.

26 comments:

Bluefish said...

The land in North America is too big to be biking to certain places. But some people are still cycling friendly.

In Montreal, we can only bike from April/May to October the latest. The weather doesn't allow us to bike all year around unless you're a messenger.

2whls3spds said...

bluefish,
I know people that bike year round in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, not exactly tropical weather!

As far as the advertisement? You expect something better from a country where driving is a "RIGHT" (tongue firmly planted in cheek...sort of)not a privilege, or it surely appears that way most of the time.

Aaron

megan said...

The funny thing is, with the amount of money he would have had to spend on the outrageously overpriced parts at AutoZone, he could have had a really nice bike.

Paul Spring said...

If he didn't spend the money fixing the car, he could have a nice bike and a nice girlfriend, too.

Wallabee said...

I live on the East Coast in the US. When I first saw this commercial I wanted to puke. I can't believe they did that! The only real freedom the boy had was his BIKE.

Alas, this is "the US" where cyclists are hippies and cars are god, but things are slowly changing and I am glad to see it.

Keep up the good work with the blog, I know that it is really inspiring people across the globe!

kstrygg said...

This commercial pissed me off to no end when I first saw it. It still does. Ranking 2nd is this commercial by BMW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rZNBmXMuqQ. So that's what biker's look like in Germany?!

PS Bluefish-I live in MSP and commute year round. Once you get moving you build up a tropical heat...on the inside.

cyclonecross said...

I *almost* stopped at Autozone last night to pick up a gas can and funnel (so that I can buy an extra 5 gallons when I cash in on a discount). However, I will spend my $$ elsewhere; Advanced Auto Parts is an alternative. My ultimate goal is to park the car entirely by cycling and using public transportation. But I currently road race and have the CX season approaching. Since my car gets good mileage and can carry 4 people and 3 bikes, I'm usually the one who ends up driving to races.

Inkblot said...

At least the kids not wearing a helmet, ‘cause that would be fear-mongering. And we all know helmets are the single biggest issue keeping untold millions from cycling…

Seriously though, I don’t think the ad is intended to be anti-cycling per se, it’s an advert intended to sell auto parts in an auto-centric culture, in a part of the world where bikes are seen as toys for children and cars are for grownups. All said, I agree it’s a poorly conceived ad for that, and many other reasons.

In a way, it is a bit surprising they didn’t put the kid in a helmet (and not any helmet, the dorkiest one they could find) just to further reinforce the bike=undesirable, car =desirable context.

Erik Sandblom said...

Are you sure the AutoZone ad isn't promoting cycling inadvertently? They certainly established that wherever you go by car, you might as well go by bike.

Regarding the BMW ad, they too established that you can get around fine without a car. The depiction of public transport was laughable for anyone who has used transit in Europe. For us, it cements the car as the choice of those who are fossilising.

Pierre Phaneuf said...

kstrygg: I've done it too, but to get the fire going, you need to push a bit, which I was going to say isn't really about "slow cycling" anymore, but since you're stuck in slush, I guess still is. But the "normal people in normal clothes" option of going slowly not to get hot and sweaty, well, isn't really a good option in that case...

cyclonecross: I don't think the point is necessarily an absolutist "no car at all". A car is a fine way of taking a racing team to a faraway race, I think. But for all those less than 5 kilometers trips that I'm told is the majority of what people use cars for, it's a horrible vehicle compared to a bike. Especially going downtown here in Montreal, I can go slow to avoid getting sweaty, and it takes me about the same time as someone driving, because I don't have as much trouble finding parking. :-)

Jeannie said...

Aw, disheartens me to see American media that makes biking out to be less cool than driving. Biking is equally, if not COOLER, than driving. (Okay, it is actually way snazzier than driving).

So, as an American living in a suburban city (San Jose, California), I do/will ride my bike to trump that lame trend. :P although I am currently studying in Berkeley, California and let me tell you - this is one of the most bike-friendly cities (apart from ones in Europe) I have ever been and where riding is top-notch-cool!

Anonymous said...

erik s.: Agreed, the message I see (subliminally) is that every car really needs a bike as a backup support vehicle. As long as the trunk will hold the bike, he's good to go. Val

Zakkaliciousness said...

Firstly, you don't cycle all year round in Montréal because your city hasn't yet invested in snowploughs for bike lanes like we have in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland.

Apart from that, there may be a subliminal message if you choose to see it. But there can be little doubt that the advert is pro-car and anti-bike, given the market it was made for.

If the kid didn't say "and I didn't have to take my bike" at the end and instead had a bike rack on his car carrying his bike, then we're talking.

but he didn't.

Anonymous said...

Zakk: Yep, that's the message I choose to see, and I'm sticking to it: if you insist on driving a car, you'd better get a bike, because you'll need it. I may be the only one who sees it, but it makes me smile. For what it's worth, this ad has generated a substantial backlash on almost every bike related blog that I've seen. The bike community in the US may be minimal and opressed, but they are vocal and well networked - perhaps Auto Zone will be getting the message soon. Val

Anonymous said...

Bluefish,

How come the weather lets messengers get away with biking in the restricted months. What, do they get special privaleges because they speak french? Don't Quebec employment discrimination laws extend to nature? How unfair.

Tom said...

I think its a great advert... for Autozone. Here we are a bunch of bike geeks talking about a commercial for an auto parts store. That's what's known as effective advertising. All the blogs complaining about that throw away ending line are increasing the awareness of Autozone.

I'm not offended anyway. They sell auto parts, not bike parts. So what's the kid suppose to say: "I'm gonna keep my bike anyway just in case those parts they sold me were crap" ?

Pierre Phaneuf said...

Oh, we have a small army of those small snow plows! But snow here is, hmm, a big deal, costing more than 128$ million dollars in snow removal each winter! Unfortunately, it's not always bike-friendly. Bottom line, snowfall in a continental climate like here and in an oceanic climate like most of Western Europe isn't nearly the same thing.

I do find the ad quite offensive.

As one of the anonymous commenter was replying to bluefish, yes, the bike messengers (and some other people) bike all year round, but it's not "normal people on normal bikes in normal clothes". They pretty much have nothing normal in these three departments. But yes, you can do it, if you want to! It's just not something I'd recommend to everyone and anyone readily, unfortunately.

Erik Sandblom said...

Tom, yes, AutoZone is increasing knowledge of their brand. And that will increase their sales.

But, they are also pouring gasoline on the bicycle fire! Cars aren't as cool as they were 30 years ago, and I think this ad just makes the car industry look even dorkier. It shows that they don't get it.

libertyonbikes said...

ever hear chris rock on having a
(nice) car? to get the girl. i think it's true. i had a nice car,
now i have no car but i'm married
and i have a nice bike. it took a couple of years to get wise.

Zakkaliciousness said...

i can sense that you are proud of your snowfall, pierre... :-) but it's not a competition. and, at the end of the day, it's just snow and an effective municipality can remove it.

if there wasn't 'that much' snow in scandinavia then we wouldn't have ski resorts. but hey... we do! dozens and dozens! in sweden and norway. The Winter Olympics were held in Norway, too. hmm, that's odd for a region without snow.

But forget Scandinavia. Look to switzerland. the Alps. many swiss cities have bike usage rates of between 20-30% - in mountainous, snowy conditions.

when I worked in a ski resort in France, we all rode around on bikes, despite the fact that there was a 3 metre base on the pistes. effective municipal planning had removed the snow from the streets.

there are no excuses. get on the phone to city hall.

Pierre Phaneuf said...

The irony is that Montreal hosted the summer Olympics (we have no proper mountains, the "Mount Royal" at the center of the city is 233 metres)!

For now, I'm concentrating efforts on the city hall toward getting bike paths to have snowplows (and bikes!) on in the first place. Thankfully, I have to say that in the last few years, our fair city has been growing its network of bike paths, and installing more things to lock our bikes to, so progress is being made!

But I'm happy to report that I'm planning on attempting to bike as much as possible through the winter, getting a "winter bike", probably a fixed-gear to deal with ice better. We'll see how that goes...

Wallabee said...

I am surprised no one has brought up the US Chevy campaign that was launched after 9/11, "American Revolution." With these ads they are saying to our youth that cars are freedom, a right and what they should be striving for. They are seeing these ads at such an impressionable age, no wonder all they want is a car by the time they are 16...

Bluefish said...

Wow...from a simple comment about biking to attack.

I'm quoting the coward who wroter:

Bluefish,

How come the weather lets messengers get away with biking in the restricted months. What, do they get special privaleges because they speak french? Don't Quebec employment discrimination laws extend to nature? How unfair.

How is French language relevant to this blog? Last time I checked this is not a political debate forum, it's a blog on cycling. All I meant was the winter road condition is not suitable for biking, unless your job requires you to. But someone has to pull the language war card and I can sense that person is either Anti-French or anti-Quebec.

Everyone is entitled to have their opinion and I'm disappointed that this wonderful blog has let nasty people attacking other readers.

And 2whls3spds: Minneapolis and Montreal are two different cities, located in different countries. I wouldn't compare those two.

Zakkaliciousness said...

Gentlemen... bicycle pumps at dawn... :-)

bluefish, I don't LET people attack people. I don't have any influence on it. You have the right to react as you did, but I don't feel the attack was THAT harsh.

Let's just move on, shall we.

Pierre Phaneuf said...

From what I can tell (I work right beside the place most bike messengers congregate for lunch), they speak both languages, so meh. They're just quite hardcore, is what they are. :-)

Zakkaliciousness: There's some good news in the snowplow department! The recently christened Claire-Morissette bike path in Montreal (after a well known local bike advocate) will apparently be the first to be snowplowed in the winter. It so happens that this bike path leads from my home to my workplace, more or less, so I'll be trying to do this all year round (after getting an appropriate bike, my "fitness bike" is already horrible when it's raining!).

You might also be delighted to know that, from what I'm told, Claire was strongly against mandatory helmet laws.

Zakkaliciousness said...

thanks pierre. claire should have a whole neighbourhood after her, but a bike route is a good start.