ASA Banned Advert (the Horse Cyclist)

They concluded, after five complaints from the public, that Cycling Scotland's safety ad was socially irresponsible and likely to condone or encourage behaviour prejudicial to health and safety. Cycling Scotland has been told that any future adverts featuring cyclists should be shown wearing helmets and placed in the most suitable cycling position. The ruling.

This is so stupid. The ban will surely be withdrawn* as Cycling Scotland rightly pursues the matter via the ASA Council's Independent Review process. Their statement.

A wider concern must be what sort of society this is, with watchdog bodies deciding what is socially responsible and what isn't, or more particularly, people working for watchdogs given the freedom to interpret social responsibility according to their personal opinion or values or prejudices. Socially irresponsible is a concept that lends itself much too easily to this sort of abuse, and that is the worry, far more than a single bad decision.

Cycling represents freedom and personal responsibility. It's a useful metaphor. Britain has developed a stifling social regime with (in many areas but not all) the responsibility for the consequences of personal actions passed from the individual to the state (or its organs, of which the ASA is one). Banning the advert is another reminder of this worrying fact.

*Update. The ASA has withdrawn its ruling:

"The ASA has withdrawn its formal ruling against a Cycling Scotland ad pending the outcome of an Independent Review. That followed a request from Cycling Scotland, in which it argued that the ASA's criticism of the positioning of the cyclist was incorrect. The decision to withdraw was made by the ASA Chief Executive in light of a potential flaw in our ruling."

... but the authority has stressed the advert can still not be broadcast in its current form because it needs to go through the independent review process (or something).

And, in response to my complaint to the ASA, I received a nice email from Matt Wilson and I sent him a reply saying I was sorry I'd accused them of Nanny State-ness.

5 comments on “ASA Banned Advert (the Horse Cyclist)”

  1. Chris wrote:

    Yes, a curious initial ruling. An interesting interpretation of being socially irresponsible, ridiculous of course.

    I have read a number of responses to this ban. This one is probably the most interesting. Links within it contain explanations of all sorts of reasons why we should be offended by this Scottish road safety video that I wouldn't have thought of.

    (As an aside here's another post from the same blog that deals with the classic "I was blinded by the sun" defence offered by motorists who run over cyclists.)

  2. Patrick wrote:

    Yes, and "he came from nowhere."

    The ASA does have an important role and probably does a reasonable job protecting society from being brainwashed or grossly offended by nasty advertisers. I don't think the advert ban is a big deal in itself; it's the interfering busybody mindset that tries to introduce petty rules and restrictions all the time. Increasingly, if something is not prohibited it means it's okay to do it, and that's what irks me more than anything. People should be encouraged to think for themselves and take responsibility.

  3. Kern wrote:

    "Treat a cyclist like a horse ..."

    I like it – especially the scratches under the chin.

  4. Hilary wrote:

    I've only just seen this. The ruling is nuts – I thought the advert was rather good, it caught people's attention and made a point. It always surprises me how people will wait patiently for horses but push past cyclists.

  5. Chris wrote:

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