Be nice to the ASA

I am sure that if you have not already, you will soon be reading an account of the Advertising Standards Authority’s embarrassing adjudication on complaints made about Scotland’s “Nice Way Code” series of “won’t everyone just play nice on the roads?” adverts. Briefly, of all the things that the ASA could have picked up on in the Nice Way Code, the offending footage ruled to be irresponsible by the ASA are (a) showing a roughly realistic proportion of people riding bikes with and without helmets, and (b) showing somebody riding a bicycle more than 0.5 metres from the side of the road. Other people will give you the full story.

I’m not an expert on advertising regulation, but I guess the first ruling sets a precedent against any future advertising featuring helmetless cycling. Things like TfL’s Catch Up With The Bicycle campaign. A depressing but not entirely unpredictable result of the lazy fact-free assumption on helmets that seems to have put down deep roots in this country (and started growing the fearsome thorns of shouty emotional anecdote). The second ruling is the more interesting and hilarious of the two. This one effectively precludes any future advertising of the standard long-established government guidance on road positioning, as taught in the official “Bikeability” cycling proficiency training. Like the advertising TfL and the DfT (under the Think! brand) are currently running on buses and billboards in London and several other English cities. But again, others will have more time than me to explore the amusing implications of the decision.

No, I only really popped into the discussion to say one thing, in the spirit of the Nice Way Code: be nice.

Obviously someone at the ASA has made a spectacular cockup, and they deserve a day’s mockery and ridicule for such an achingly absurd, side-splittingly ludicrous joke of an assessment.

But, occasional slapstick stupidity aside, I’m sure the ASA are not bad people.

Clearly some junior adjudicator got out of his or her depth, read one document they didn’t entirely understand, and remained ignorant of the actual relevant research and guidance in the field. Sure, there should have been processes in place to prevent errors of such a preposterous magnitude from ever getting so far as publication, but I have no doubt that with the blunder now evident to all, the ASA will be working fast to fix the mistake, and will ensure all is put right before the DfT and TfL are forced to put their adverts on hold while more time and money is wasted formally challenging it.

I’m sure they’re good people, and I’m sure they’ll have this one under control in no time. So be nice to them.

By all means clog up their system with satirical reports intended to mock, and with serious test cases designed to force contradictions, but do be nice.

That’s the Nice Way Code, after all.

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9 responses to “Be nice to the ASA

  1. I think you’re being too generous. The crap about the car nearly being in the opposite lane reads as though it was written by some carist who hates “bikes being in my way”

  2. Yep, too generous by half. This isn’t the first “helmetless” ruling. The ASA have form on this:

    http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2011/4/Citroen-UK-Ltd/TF_ADJ_50261.aspx

  3. Inconsistent ruling. In the first part they complain that the advert doesn’t follow the Highway Code guidance, and in the second part they complain that the car does follow Highway Code guidance.

    Worse than that, this is a very powerful indication that cycling in the UK is completely mis-understood even by people who are supposed to be looking after the interests of the population. The Nice Way Code was a complete waste of money, putting the emphasis on victim-blaming, and now the ASA complain that the Nice Way Code wasn’t victim-blaming enough!!

  4. Something to do: There’s a petition already set up on Change.org http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/sir-hayden-phillips-please-reve rse-asa-ruling-a13-238570-finding-cyclists-should-be-shown-wearing-helmets-and-placed-in-the-most-suitable-cycling-position-no-more-than-0-5-metres-from-the-parking-lane

  5. I wonder who the (five) complainants were? Possibly aye-bee-dee type troublemakers? Must be feeling pretty pleased with themselves by now …

  6. I think you’re being way too generous. To err is human, but the ASA is supposed to be a serious and professional body, and needs to have processes that protect themselves from human fallibility. They should have proper internal sign-off method to stop ludicrous outcomes like this ever seeing the light of day.

  7. This is indicative of more serious bias. Ever wondered how so many car adverts show dangerous and illegal driving without any sanction from the ASA? I have complained about several of them and been turned down every time by the ASA.

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