Selling cycling: lets make some cycling ads
So far in discussing the fact that cycling needs to get serious about selling itself, we’ve pondered the manipulative nature of advertising, had a look at the product itself, that many products have to turn a negative into a positive, thought about how Maslow’s Pyramid of Desires applies to this and where we need to focus our efforts, had some motivation from the marketing masters at Coke, and got started with setting up the framework for the kind of cycling ads cycling is in need of.
Now, lets get some actual ad ideas out there.
We’ve had some suggestions from some of you that they should be short, and punchy. Borrowing some common social practices (good or bad) and using them to connect people to the idea of cycling in a positive way. Maybe slip some subliminal messages in between the frames? Or, just parody some other well-known ads and change the subject matter to cycling to show the holes in our thinking, to show that cycling really isn’t that ridiculous a notion, and by taking the form of something we already enjoy and making it about something we openly mock, make people think twice about the activity.
So, before this takes derails into a massive tangent, lets just get to making with the ideas.
Some of these are direct rip-offs, and as such, would need to be modified in order to actually go to air (not like I’m thinking that would actually happen, but hey, if you’re reading this, Philanthropic Executive Ad-Person…), but these are just concepts, after all.
So, in no particular order:
1. Maybe an ad where a guy is hating himself while sitting in traffic while a cyclist whizzes by, all happy and light of spirit. Voice-over: “Miserable? It’s impossible to stay miserable on a bike.” There is no end to the scenarios that could be used for this.
2. Like the Healthy Choice add where the unhealthy blokes are sitting around giving the healthy guy a hard time, but are all actually totes jelly of him because they actually don’t want to be fat and out of shape. Healthy guy is standing tall, hunky, and confident. Above their jeering. Now, just make the tradies a bunch of suits in an office scoffing cakes and coffee, and the healthy choice guy a cyclist, and there you go. Totes. Jelly.
3. How about every add that tells Moms that they should be thinking of their children’s health and futures? Scene: Mom shuffling the kid into the car to drive them to school. Other kids (with or without parents) ride by, in an incidental manner, in the wide shot. Foreshadowing. Flash-forward to the future, where the kid is grown-up, sitting in traffic, slightly overweight, having made life choices that revolve around using a car for everything. Maybe he labours out of the seat of his car while the cyclist lithely dismounts his bike while still moving, just in the background. Back to Mom in the present, looking at her kid in the back seat. Cut to scene in the new and improved reality where they are both cycling to school, the kid with a massive smile on it’s face, and Mom, proud of her kid, and proud that she made a good choice.
4. Medication ads. Show a bunch of medication. Pills for blood pressure, diet pills, joint inflammation, heart problems, etc. Show the time and worry spent in doctors offices. The bills. The stress. Then show an older couple (maybe) cycling, and in the fast and strong disclaimer voice-over that usually accompanies medication ads, list all of the “positive side effects may include…”, but also go into the benefits that extend well beyond physical health and into the wider community.
Then have a series of commercials that center around cycling as a cure for your condition, whatever it be: traffic, health, stress, boredom, money, pollution, fractured cities, etc, that are modeled after medication ads: “Do you suffer from X?”, says a random guy in a white lab coat holding a clip-board, but “accidentally” still wearing his cycling shoes, “then try Cyclingᵀᴹ, the new over-the-counter drug/anti-depressant/whatever drug recommended by doctors everywhere”. Show happy people cycling, with fast and strong disclaimer voice-over guy listing, “Side effects may include…”.
5. Or the same with infomercials: “Are you tired of/Don’t you hate it when…?”. “Well, don’t! Act now to enjoy benefits x, y, or z…” “And as a special bonus, (list other great benefits of cycling/increased activity)…”
6. Maybe you get a bit controversial and frame the issue of unnecessary personal motorized transport as abusive behaviour that is learned and conditioned, having a series of PSA-styled ads under the campaign of, “Break the cycle. Ride a bike.”
7. This is getting away from taking advantage of people’s desire to superficially fill a hole in their lives and may not have the desired effect we are after, but, what about a simple ad that just showed the fuel gauge in a car moving towards empty, and a bike’s odometer going up, but instead of fuel and mileage it was measuring quality of life, or even just one’s life-expectancy, or something that was a specific and common health risk that driving exacerbates and cycling alleviates. Maybe show the statistic of how many people die each day or year as the fuel tank empties and the bike computer goes up.
8. Lifestyle ads, like the stupid Coke “Anthem” ad. Show causal links but this time one’s that are actually accurate. “Cycling to work” (show a casual and stylish/sexy cyclist cruising past a long line of stopped traffic). “Work-out for free” (show a different casual cyclist, one who is not quite super-fit looking, but getting there, whizzing past a street-front gym with a row of sweaty people looking miserable on treadmills, looking out at the cyclist with jealous eyes). “Free to live” (show two sexy, though normal looking cyclists arriving at an urban, ultra-cool foodie destination where friends are congregated out front for a night on the town and the good times are afoot). “Live alive” (show a camera on the sand, dude dumps bike just in front of the camera and immediately chases after the group of sexy friends, guys and girls, already playing soccer on the beach, having the time of their lives – or maybe another image. Actually, I don’t really like that one, but you get the idea…).
Now, from this, we could have really short, 5 second ads that reverses the perspective and just shows one of these scenes from the POV of the unfortunate non-cyclist. End with a chirpy little bell-ring each time. Ring-ring! Maybe even a really quick flash of the words “Ride your bike”, or “Take the bike” or something against a black screen.
The camera could be behind the steering wheel watching the cyclist glide by enjoying their commute. Ring-ring! “Take the bike”.
From atop the treadmill with the sound of the gym in the background, and maybe a really annoying conversation happening just behind, and just catching a muscly cool-guy posing in the mirror (just setting up the contrast of using a gym and riding a bike outside), laboured breath or some other displeasurable sound, watching the cyclist combining transport, exercise, and pleasure all at once. Ring-ring! “Ride your bike”.
From a driver looking for a parking spot, trying and failing to fit in a too-small parking spot, or plugging coin after coin into a parking meter, watching the cyclist roll up to the cheers of their pals, quickly lock their bike up, and roll out. Ring-ring! “Take the bike.”
So there you go. Some concepts for cycling ads to get people who don’t cycle to think about cycling in a different way. Specifically, to feel a little bad for not doing it, or feel like they’d be cooler or more accepted or smarter or just better than you if they did. We have to tell them that like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. As far as I’m concerned, it’ll do a whole lot more than the only pro-cycling press that most people see, which is usually something that hints at the danger or tension that cycling either causes or finds itself in. “Be safe, be seen.” “Share the road.” “A meter matters.” Sure, they’re important, but they’re not going to convince anyone who isn’t already cycling to grab a bike and go. If anything, it will remind them that there are good reasons not to.
Header image: source