Goedendag! Sorry, just trying to get in a few Dutch phrases before heading off on the Embassy study tour with David Hembrow to see how the Netherlands designs cycle infrastructure for people who wish to ride bicycles from A to B. In the UK of course, we design cycle infrastructure for people who don’t wish to ride bicycles from A to B unless it’s via Q. In fact, our cycle infrastructure isn’t really of benefit to bicycle riders at all, but at least it could be appreciated by people who like Abstract Art or Improvisational Jazz or Crack Cocaine.
The always lovely Lazy Bicycle Blog has beaten me to it but it’s always good to spread the word. The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain has launched a poster competition to coincide with its official launch in September. Obviously, having started up just 6 months ago, we are very much in our infancy so we ask those dedicated to the cause to create a poster from a photo or piece of artwork that they think best represents the aims and aspirations of the Embassy. Unbelievably, we’ve already started to receive entries which made me choke appreciatively on my afternoon tea and Fererro Rocher. I can’t enter being Chair of the Board so here are a couple of ideas I made up earlier…
I acknowledge that I’m not the most experienced or talented digital artworker and the second one in particular comes from what will become known in future years as my ‘Sarcastic Period’. However, I hope it inspires people who are also inept at slick imagery to just come up with something that conveys a simple message on what improved infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians with all its subsequent benefits would mean for you or your school or your community.
On the subject of advertising and marketing, I would like to look at a couple of other campaigns, one from the UK and one from the Netherlands to see the difference in aims and aspirations. Firstly a Cinema advert by CTC called ‘CycleHero’ in 2007 as part of a wider campaign highlighting the link between cycling and combating climate change.
From the CTC website,
‘The cornerstone of our project will be a Cinema commercial to create awareness and make people really stop and think about Climate change issues. We plan to have our advert in cinemas in the early summer period to maximise the opportunity to encourage more and more people to take their bike from the garage and go for a ride. The film will be supported by a Public Relations campaign to spread the message further and we plan to work with local CTC groups to develop a series of national and local rides, events, meetings, workshops etc, to help involve cyclists and the wider local community in publicising the issues.
‘The CTC film and its accompanying materials will use cycling as a positive image to raise awareness of and attitudes towards climate change. The project involves all those who already cycle regularly as well as those occasional and lapsed cyclists whose bike is waiting in the back of their shed. Cycling is a smart choice. Cyclists are aware of the challenges of climate change and realise, that by cycling, they are not only having fun, staying healthy and enjoying a social / sporting friendship, but also at the same time improving global sustainability. Now is a great time to spread the word.’
Indeed. I think it’s a very well made commercial, particularly for something so pro-cycling in the UK. Alas, I have a couple of issues with it. Firstly, you can hear a marketing check list being ticked off as it moves to its sun drenched climax; sexy woman – check, climate change bad – check, motoring bad – check, children – check, cool person to engage youth – check, elderly person – check, majority in helmets to pass the Advertising Standards Authority – check, representatives from different races and creeds – check and so on. Secondly, the ‘hero’ dresses up to look like someone who Robocop might consider if trying out Internet dating.
There is an instant disconnect with the audience as they are being preached at about climate change (never preach to a British audience) and that there is a difference between cycling to a beautiful traffic free cliff top and the dangerous traffic choked hell holes that the audience sees day in day out. I don’t blame CTC for any of this as they must have had to make an advert with a climate change theme as part of the funding conditions. I actually think they did incredibly well because as people who only eat, drink, sleep and breathe cycling, it’s incredibly difficult to see the World any other way, and I’m sure they had great fun making it. In a way, we will encounter the same issues at the Embassy. We feel that we have the best answer to take to the general public. The trick is in how you actually convey that message.
I love this advert, I really do. Marc at Amsterdamize has just informed me that the pay off at the end (for those that can’t speak Dutch. I can now count to 10 and order a round of drinks sounding like a Dutch Sean Connery) is “Cyclists encounter a lot of obstacles. The Cyclists Union clears the way. Become a member!” Sadly, such a positive outlook would be torn to shreds in Britain. Everyone is wearing normal clothing without helmets for a start which would mean an instant fail with the ASA. The protagonist is also stunt riding with a Devil-may-care attitude that the Daily Mail would state is the dangerous, irresponsible way that all cyclists in the UK behave already (although ‘dangerous’ and ‘irresponsible’ are words that would also describe their take on journalism).
If you reckon you can do better, get your poster to the Embassy. You don’t have to use models or climate change messages or stunt riding. Simplicity is the key, just as getting to the shops or work should be.