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Banned bike ad offends (almost) no one

Vanmoof bike
One of Vanmoof's electric bikes (Image credit: VanMoof)

We've seen ads banned for various reasons over the years, often when deemed either to be offensive, or contain misleading information. Dutch e-bike pedlar Vanmoof is the latest brand to have fallen foul of advertising authorities with its first ever TV ad, but whether it's actually offensive is up to you – and your view on cars. 

The ad (below) features images of congestion and pollution reflected in the shiny surface of a sports car, which then melts away to reveal one of Vanmoof's bikes along with the words, "ride the future" (check out our best laptops for video editing if you're inspired to create your own masterpiece). France's Autorité de Régulation Professionnelle de la Publicité (ARPP) has banned the ad for, essentially, dissing the car industry.

Honestly, it doesn't strike us as a particularly offensive ad. The images of congestion aren't particularly shocking, and certainly won't be new to anybody who's ever found themselves caught in a traffic jam. According to a blog post on Vanmoof's website, the ARPP accused the ad of “discrediting the automobile sector while creating a climate of anxiety” (perhaps not the best choice of words to describe an ad addressing actual climate issues). The ad has already run without issue in Germany and the Netherlands.

Still, Vanmoof probably isn't too unhappy about the ruling. As its blog post shows, the banned ad has turned into quite the PR opportunity. "It’s puzzling that car companies are allowed to gloss over their environmental problems," says co-founder Ties Carlier, but when someone challenges that situation it gets censored." Vanmoof’s long-term goal is to fully democratise cycling, and "ultimately get the next billion on bikes".

The extra press has also no doubt helped the ad gain over 1.5M views on YouTube. "Gorgeous commercial," one user comments. "Strange and sketchy that the French advertising standards authority would ban this. What we do to our planet SHOULD scare people."

As controversial branding moments go, we wouldn't say Vanmoof's 'cars are a bit yucky' ad is up there. We've seen much worse – such as Burger King's recent ad for a 'plant-based' burger that wasn't actually vegetarian

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