Selling cycling: profiting from your fear and desires – part 3: concocting ads
If you need the lead-up to this, it’s right here.
Alright, so now we need to figure out a way to get people on bikes as a mode of transportation using all of the usual positives cycling brings, but with a twist. Like all good ads, we have to get manipulative. We need cycling ads that do more than recommend wearing hi-viz or pleading with drivers to respect us. We need to make people long for it. We need to make them feel bad about themselves if they don’t, but above all, make them feel good about themselves if they do. Really wind-up and kick people in the nuts and/or ovaries about the transport choices they make. Nay, the lifestyle choices they make that will bring them all the satisfaction they could ever desire…
There are many positive reasons to get on a bike, some material, and some more abstract:
We could take a look at all of the standard positive attributes of cycling – the freedom, the fact that it’s healthy, both physically and mentally, it can make you smarter, it’s fun, it’s cheap, it’s good for the environment, it desegregates people and allows them to interact with those around them, it builds confidence, a means of escape and the opportunity to find yourself again, it builds relationships, it connects you to your environment, and perhaps, sometimes, even to something far bigger.
We can choose to focus on plenty of negatives that cycling counteracts, which are basically the opposites of the positives. It’s simply a mater of which angle we want to take for a given campaign (hint: both).
The lockstep nature of driving, confined to your metal box, only moving when the vehicle in front of you moves. The well-documented health risks, including stress, obesity, etc. The personal expense. The environmental cost. The rising death toll and countless injuries. Teaching children that going anywhere, no matter how close or for what purpose, is reliant on using a car. Dehumanizing those around you. The infrastructure required for you destroys neighborhoods, and the list goes on.
Ads For Who?
We need the ads to address different audiences, and in different ways. Parents. Kids. The 20 somethings. Uni students. White collar. Blue collar. The wealthy. The poor. Right wing. Left wing.
For each these people we need to call into questions their life-choices. Subtly, of course, and in a way that shows them there is a better way. We don’t actually want to depress anyone, but like all products, we need to make people feel like this product will give you what you have always desired. Whatever you are missing in your life, this will fill that hole, but in a more sustainable and genuinely fulfilling way than other products.
How do they want their children to grow up? Do they really want to be unhealthy (ie: you can be more attractive, more desirable, etc)? Do they want to have other people dictate to them how they travel? Do you really want to set yourself up for a life of working so many hours just to support your habit of driving everywhere? Don’t you have enough stress in your life as it is? Don’t kids love to play, and detest being strapped into a chair? Don’t you want to grow old gracefully? Are you so insecure that you need to have an expensive vehicle to prove your manliness? Don’t you want fantastic legs and a killer butt? Isn’t it soul-destroying to pay someone so you can stare at a wall or a mute TV while you run without going anywhere? Wouldn’t you love more time? Aren’t clogged roads, or even just roads, and the thousands of cold, bleak car-receptacles an incredible eye-sore? Isn’t the sight and sound of pedals turning infinitely more satisfying than the sound and fury of motorized transport? Don’t those with less money deserve to get where they need to go just as much as you? Isn’t it great to accomplish something before you even start your day? Don’t we have a duty to ourselves and the health of the nation to make better choices? Don’t we want a better life for ourselves and our children? The angles are endless.
We need a two-pronged attack with one campaign that provides the fear, and another that fills the hole. Ads that, like all good ads, assume you know that you’ve always wanted this, and now you can have it. We’re not telling you – you already know it to be true, and you need it. You deserve it.
I keep thinking subtle is better, but often it’s not at all. Not entirely, anyway. That stupid Coke ad is anything but in what it’s saying explicitly, but the genius is that it gets you thinking, or feeling, on a more subconscious level that Coke will make you feel good on a level that we know it couldn’t possibly, but it’s a strong, positive message that is associated with sugar-water. Happy people drink Coke. Deeply satisfied people drink Coke. You want that, right?
I’ll continue this on Friday, but I’d like to involve you in this. I’d like you to come up with an actual ad concept using any of the above positives or negatives, or others, but with the key element of being as cleverly manipulative as possible. It doesn’t have to be totally detailed and worked out. Just a few lines. Who’s it for, and what does it look like? What’s the message?
Hit them where it hurts, but do it in a way that makes them face the reality they have created for themselves. We don’t want to tell them they’ll be healthier or save money or anything so simplistic, we need to stir the ugly truth a bit, but focus on the amazing and simple solution. We need strong imagery. We need to make them feel bad or responsible but also feel superior, lazy but empowered, that the world is a mess but they can be in control, smarter, greedy, beautiful, that people will want to be around them, selfish, desirable, or part of something meaningful and bigger than them. Present something they don’t want, and give them a solution for getting what they do.
Whatever it takes.
Header image: source