A TV ad for electric scooter retailer Zinc Sports, seen on 15 October 2020, featured people riding electric scooters in front of animated backgrounds, including a pavement, an urban setting and a park setting.
IssueFive complainants challenged whether the ad was socially irresponsible because it depicted people using electric scooters on public roads and pavements, which they understood was illegal.
ResponseHy-Pro International Ltd t/a Zinc Sports said that they had intended to place the scooter in a non-urban setting to avoid misleading viewers about the legality of using the scooters in public environments. As a result, the ad featured an animated background that did not include any roads, cycle lanes or pavements. They said the ad signposted viewers to their website where the message “Warning! It is illegal to use this vehicle on public highways (roads/pavements): only to be used on private property with the owner's consent” was displayed. Clearcast said they were aware that Personal Light Electric Vehicles could not be used on public roads, cycle lanes or pavements in the UK and that this was given due consideration in the clearance process. To that end, they said the style of the ad was abstract and this was underlined by the absence of pedestrians or motorists in the ad’s urban and non-urban elements. They said the male scooter user in the ad was depicted at the start and at the end of his journey, but there was no positive indication as to whether or not he was on public land.. Similarly, the female user was depicted from the waist up, travelling through a mixed landscape, but with no positive indication as to whether or not she was on public land.. For those reasons, they felt the ad did not suggest or encourage the use of the product in an irresponsible manner.
AssessmentUpheld The ASA acknowledged that the background scenes used in the ad were abstract and did not contain photorealistic scenery, or pedestrians and vehicles. However, we considered that the backgrounds used, though cartoonish, would be identified as both urban and park settings. The former featured city scenes with high-rise buildings and pavements. The latter featured bushes and trees. We considered that the visuals therefore had the effect of making it seem as though the scooter users in the ad were travelling through city and park environments, which were public spaces. We noted the Department for Transport’s guidance on powered transporters, last updated in July 2020 – an umbrella term that included electric scooters – stated electric scooters could only be used on private land, to which the general public did not have access, with the permission of the landowner or occupier. Although we understood there were currently some very limited exceptions of use in public areas that related to rental scooters only, we understood that the use of electric scooters outside of those circumstances was illegal. We considered that not all viewers would necessarily understand or have an awareness of the legality of using electric scooters, and that the visuals in the ad strongly gave the impression that it was legitimate to use them in places other than private land when it was not. We therefore concluded the ad was socially irresponsible and breached the Code. The ad breached BCAP Code rule 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Hy-Pro International Ltd to ensure that their future marketing communications made clear that the use of electric scooters was currently only permitted on private land.