The e-bike that's scaring one of America's closest allies

Can an ad for an environmentally friendly bicycle create a climate of anxiety? This one apparently can.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
Screenshot by ZDNet

I'm not one for horror movies.

Ever since I saw The Exorcist in a theater, I've dreaded such dark manipulation, though I've now come to terms with the benefits of green pea soup.

I, therefore, suffered several fits of trepidation on learning that an ad had escaped into the world, an ad which  -- according to a powerful official body -- was creating a climate of anxiety.

What worried me even more was that this was an ad for an e-bike and the official body was French. Yes, one of America's closest allies and the place where laissez-faire originated.

This ad, you see, presented the VanMoof S3 e-bike as a contrast to the world of the high-falutin', pollutin' fancy cars. Well, all cars really. But here we specifically see a fancy car melting down, as if it would now be recycled for its precious metals.

I didn't find it especially scary. Nor, for that matter, especially persuasive.

If they'd at least shown a Tesla melting down, I might admire the sheer hutzpah of suggesting that VanMoof e-bikes are morally far superior to Elon Musk's ego-driven machines -- the ones that now speed along my local freeways and insist you get out of their way.

Yet here is VanMoof being somewhat VanMiffed that its ad has been banned by the Autorité de Régulation Professionnelle de la Publicité (ARPP). This is the ad industry's self-regulating body that decides which ads can be seen by sensitive French eyes and which are a touch too much.

In the case of the VanMoof ad, the ARPP believes it creates "a climate of anxiety."

Lordy, have you ever seen a single pharmaceutical ad? Almost every one makes me worry about self-regulating the particular part of my body in question. I worry whether I'm experiencing the side effects of some new drug, even if I've never actually ingested it or injected it.

VanMoof sees dark forces at work. This was mostly existing footage after all.

The company offered a soupcon of sardonic dressing: "If everyday footage of real-world transport is going to create a 'climate of anxiety', maybe someone should try to do something about that world. Y'know… by offering alternative means of transportation. Or something."

VanMoof believes the regulatory body is trying to protect the car industry -- such a fine, if often monotonous advertiser, yet currently so threatened by the fact that millennials prefer Uber (I mean, Lyft) and, thanks to the coronavirus, people aren't driving.

I confess to not having entirely positive thoughts about cyclists. Too many -- at least in my part of the US -- express their moral superiority by wearing garish, ill-fitting clothing and speeding past in vast groups. Yes, along pathways they're supposed to share with mere pedestrians.

I do worry about France, though. If this environmentally-friendly ad has indeed caused anxiety among French people, what might frighten them next? 

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