08 July 2013

Update: What if Car Commercials Reflected Reality?

Should car manufacturers be forced to include health warnings on their products? Read about that idea here.

Addendum: 19.07.2013.

Yesterday, two gentleman from Citroën Denmark knocked on the door. In Danish, a sudden, unannounced visit is called "fransk visit" or French visit, so that was appropriate. They were from the marketing department and they wanted to discuss, of course, the parody commercial that we had whipped together to highlight the fact that car commercials never reflect reality or fact.

We weren't suprised to hear from Citroën, but their personal visit was an interesting twist. A good, strategic move in a social media age where sober Cease & Desist letters get blogged in 4 seconds.

I invited them in, of course, and we had a pleasant chat on the sofa. They wanted, of course, the parody commercial removed. No surprise. They were sent from headquarters in Paris, who saw the parody on a Turkish blog.

They had also sent an email that morning, before coming. Here it is:

It has come to our attention that your blog copenhagenize.com operated by Copenhagenize Design Co. is displaying and promoting content of an derogatory and offending nature to the brand Citroën. Further the content is produced on the basis of assets belonging to Citroën and which legal rights of usage resides at Citroën. On this basis you are asked to remove the content from Copenhagenize.com or any other site operated by your organization without undue delay, and in the future refrain from displaying the brand Citroën in an offending or insulting manner.

I look forward to your immediate reply.

That line, "displaying and promoting content of a derogatory and offending nature to the brand Citroën", is rather irrelevant. It's a brand, not an individual. We ain't crying rivers because your brand got an ouch on their finger.

Turning that around, I'm sure that many of us would consider the fact that Citroën produces over 3 million cars a year, unleashing them on our city streets, could also be regarded as "derogatory and offending nature to Homo Sapiens and liveable cities".

There was no particular reason that we used Citroën in the parody. They are just Big Auto to us, like all the rest. A cog in the nameless, faceless machine that plays no small part in killing 1.2 million people a year around the world, injuring 50 million, and contributing negatively to the public health.

Citroën has featured in our ongoing series The Car Industry Strikes Back before. In that link you can read about a commercial they filmed in Copenhagen a couple of years ago. One of the most spectacular examples of greenwashing in recent times. Interestingly, I can't for the life of me find a copy of it on the internet. It's as though they have tried to erase all knowledge of it.

At the end of the day, we decided to remove the parody from the blog. It's summer holidays after all. There is wine to be drunk, oceans to swim in. It was good fun, but hey... we can always think up other ways to have good fun. Whether or not the parody shows up on other servers elsewhere in the world is beyond our control. Nor can we control Google and their search engines because anyone could just google If Car Commercials Were Based on Fact not Fiction and find it themselves. We've removed it from "Copenhagenize.com or any other site operated by your organization".

Regarding the  line in the email about "in the future refrain from displaying the brand Citroën in an offending or insulting manner"... yeah, well, no guarantees there.

There is a good tradition of parody gaining the backing of the courts in Denmark, but there are more important battles to be fought and won.

The orginal text of this article:

It's no secret that car commercials are, by and large, fiction. Shiny cars roaring along empty streets devoid of traffic jams or scarring their way through impressive landscapes. Selling the dream. With the emphasis on dream.

So. What if car commercials reflected the reality of life on the roads? What if they had to - or were even forced to by laws regarding advertising standards - highlight the carnage that motorists cause on the roads of the world.

Back in 2009, we blogged about our idea that cars should be subject to the same rules regarding tobacco products and be forced to feature health warnings.

Here at Copenhagenize Design Co. we played around and took it the next level, producing a car commercial based in reality instead of fantasy. Ivan Conte is working with us for six months as an intern and he produced this little taste of real-life advertising.


Nate said...

Nice, but I think too much emphasis on crashes and not enough on ugly cities, parking lots, traffic jams, pollution..

Stijn said...

wondering how long this movie will be online...

Fonant said...

Agree with Nate. Car crashes are bad, but the terrorism of our streets is worse: in the UK the young and the old are severely restricted in their movements by the presence of motor traffic everywhere, and this affects millions of people on a daily basis. Some clips of children and old people failing to be able to cross a road would be topical.

Bob Anderton said...

Nice... though cars aren't just about crashing. Mostly in the city they are about being stuck in traffic with other cars.

That's why riding a bike is so awesome. Everyone wins. We ride around the stuck cars and we are not another car making the other drivers stuck. Now if they would only realize this...

tstreet said...

While car commercials distort our every day experience, this video does as well. This is not to say that the automobile is not the scourge of civilized society and an ongoing threat to the planet. On the other hand, not sure most people really care about planetary impacts.

Even without the carnage, however, I find the traffic in my little tourist town in summer an ugly nightmare.

Luis_Gutierrez said...

Car commercials do reflect reality every now and then. Look at this Toyota/Scion ad, for instance:

It's a perfect reflection of how aggressive and irresponsible drivers see pedestrians and cyclists as just obstacles on roads.

wulfhound said...

Agree with other comments re traffic jams in particular.. not least because peoples' misled expectations regarding the open road is perhaps what leads to much of the frustration of jams.

Rather than cigarettes and their health warnings, perhaps it's worth drawing parallels to the Advertising Standards Agency's rules on advertising alcohol.

They can be viewed at http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/Display-Code.aspx?CodeId={04E308E5-4563-4789-89A0-801EB5F28D9E}&ItemId={344F4EA1-2687-4284-95D7-636D4AB0103B}

I took the above, substituted only where necessary ("drinking" for "driving", "cars" etc.), and arrived at this...

Marketing communications must be socially responsible and must contain nothing that is likely to lead people to adopt styles of driving that are unwise. Care should be taken not to exploit the young, the immature or those who are mentally or socially vulnerable.

Marketing communications must not claim or imply that a car can enhance confidence or popularity.

Marketing communications must not imply that driving a car is a key component of the success of a personal relationship or social event.

Driving must not be portrayed as a challenge. Marketing communications must neither show, imply, encourage or refer to aggression or unruly, irresponsible or anti-social behaviour nor link driving with brave, tough or daring people or behaviour.

Marketing communications must neither link cars with seduction, sexual activity or sexual success nor imply that being seen in one can enhance attractiveness.

Marketing communications must not imply that cars might be indispensable or take priority in life or that owning a car can by itself overcome boredom, loneliness or other problems.

Marketing communications must not imply that driving has therapeutic qualities. Driving must not be portrayed as capable of changing mood, physical condition (except making you fat) or behaviour.

Marketing communications must not imply that cars can enhance mental or physical capabilities; for example, by contributing to professional or sporting achievements.

Marketing communications must not imply that a car may be preferred because of its speed or thrilling handling. There is an exception for eco-cars, which may be presented as preferable because of their low engine power.

In the case of a car with relatively high performance in relation to its category, the factual information should not be given undue emphasis.

Marketing communications must not feature cars being handled or used irresponsibly.

Marketing communications must not link cars with activities or locations in which driving would be unsafe or unwise.

Marketing communications must not be likely to appeal particularly to people under 18, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. They should not feature or portray real or fictitious characters who are likely to appeal particularly to people under 18 in a way that might encourage the young to drive. People shown driving or playing a significant role (see rule 18.16) should not be shown behaving in an adolescent or juvenile manner.

Marketing communications must not be directed at people under 18 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear. No medium should be used to advertise cars if more than 25% of its audience is under 18 years of age.

People shown driving or playing a significant role must neither be nor seem to be under 25. People under 25 may be shown in marketing communications, for example, in the context of family celebrations, but must be obviously not driving.

Marketing communications may give factual information about product specifications, including comparisons, but must not make any health, fitness or weight-control claims.

The only permitted performance claims are “high MPG”, “reduced fuel consumption” and “low emissions” and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer.

Patrick said...


Patrick said...

"Driving kills" seems like a no brainer to me.


Asso.CastelldeJoch said...

Anyway Citroen belongs to the PSA Group and they are bust. Should self destruct within 2 years according to the Darwinian theories.

Mariano Reaño said...

Maybe you could remake the video avoiding to quote an specific car brand. After all, the cars are serial killers regardless its brand. Warm regards from Mariano, ConBici, Spain.

Alina said...

This is the Citroen ad filmed in Copenhagen a few years ago: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xf4h9b_pub-nouvelle-citroen-c4-cyclistes-2_auto#.Ue7-QWRgY68

Alina said...

This is the Citroen ad filmed in Copenhagen a few years ago: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xf4h9b_pub-nouvelle-citroen-c4-cyclistes-2_auto#.Ue7-QWRgY68

Alina said...

This is the Citroen ad filmed in Copenhagen a few years ago: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xf4h9b_pub-nouvelle-citroen-c4-cyclistes-2_auto#.Ue7-QWRgY68