A TV ad for children's bicycles from retailer Halfords featured scenes of a residential street at Christmas, with the pavement covered in thin snow. The ad then showed a group of children cycling down the street and concluded with the group cycling towards a bend as the camera panned up towards the sky.
The complainant, who believed the ad showed a group of children cycling at speed down a slope in icy conditions and occupying the width of the street, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and likely to encourage behaviour that could be dangerous for children to emulate.
Halfords Ltd stated that much discussion and consideration took place between themselves and Clearcast prior to the production of the ad to ensure that it was socially responsible and did not condone, encourage or unreasonably feature behaviour that could be dangerous for children to emulate. They stated that safety was of utmost importance to Halfords at all times. Halfords pointed out that the children depicted in the ad were not riding at speed and a slope was not shown anywhere in the ad. They stated that the children were shown riding on a quiet housing estate, without a single car being shown in the ad. They further stated that although the paths seen in the ad had a light sprinkling of snow, the roads were clear.
Halfords stated that although the group of children were seen riding side by side, they were in fact on a “one-way” road, with the “one-way” street sign clearly shown and therefore there was no danger of oncoming traffic. They did not agree that the children were cycling quickly or irresponsibly throughout the ad or that the children "swerved" round a corner as asserted by the complainant. Halfords said that children were not required by law to wear protective helmets. However, all of their ads depicted children wearing these as an encouragement of the practice. They also pointed out that the younger children did not join the older ones in cycling but remained on their driveways. They stated that they did not receive any other complaints regarding this ad.
Clearcast stated that they and the advertising agency took great care to ensure that safety was observed, both in terms of the filming that took place on set and the finished film. They strongly disagreed with the description that any child was seen to be "cycling at speed down a slope" in the ad. They stated one child was seen to cycle from a pavement into the road alongside other cyclists and did so safely. The use of helmets was clearly visible throughout the ad. Clearcast pointed out that the road depicted in the ad was clear of any traffic and parked cars and that there were no markings on the road that would indicate that the road was for two-way traffic. Clearcast stated that the group of cyclists rode towards a left turning at the end of a road and there were no “stop” or “give way” signs. However, there was a sign which indicated one-way traffic in accordance with the Highway Code, which demonstrated that the cyclists were travelling in the correct direction and would not be facing any oncoming traffic.
Clearcast therefore disagreed that the ad condoned or encouraged behaviour that could be dangerous for children to emulate. They were of the view that the ad had clearly been prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and the children were seen to be demonstrating safe practice.
The ASA noted that the ad was set in wintry conditions and that the pavement and driveways of the houses along the street were covered by a thin layer of snow; the street, however, was seemingly clear and there did not appear to be an icy slope. We also noted that there were no vehicles in the immediate vicinity of the children or elsewhere in the ad, parked or moving, and that the group of children was not seen to be cycling at speed or in a reckless manner.
Notwithstanding Halfords' and Clearcast's comments that a one-way sign was seen in the ad, given the positioning and the length of time that the sign was shown in the ad, we considered that viewers were unlikely to understand that the street depicted was a one-way street. However, we considered that viewers would understand that the street was situated in a quiet residential area, which appeared to be a relatively safe cycling environment. Although the final scene showed the group of cycling children approaching a bend, they were seen to be doing so at a reasonable speed and not in a negligent manner. Further, the children appeared to be riding no more than two abreast and were wearing helmets throughout.
Whilst we acknowledged the complainant's concerns, we considered that viewers would interpret the message of the ad not as one of road safety, but to promote children's bikes, with the appeal being the simple enjoyment of cycling. We considered that the ad had conveyed this without encouraging viewers to ignore their own knowledge and responsibility regarding cycling safety for the reasons set out above. We therefore concluded that the ad did not condone, encourage or unreasonably feature behaviour that could be dangerous for children to emulate.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society.
(Social Responsibility) and
Advertisements must not condone, encourage or unreasonably feature behaviour that could be dangerous for children to emulate. Advertisements must not implicitly or explicitly discredit established safety guidelines. Advertisements must not condone, encourage or feature children going off alone or with strangers.
This rule is not intended to prevent advertisements that inform children about dangers or risks associated with potentially harmful behaviour. (Children), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.