Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cars like cigarettes? NoAuto calls for immediate limitations on car advertising in Italy

World Streets is by no means an anti-car paper. However if you follow us you may have noticed that we have some pretty developed ideas as to fewer cars, slower cars, and, when we have them on the road, with more people in each of them. But above all, more choices for all. At the same time we keep an eye on friends like NoAuto in Italy, who are pushing for tighter controls on automobile advertisements. (And who in their right mind can argue with that?)

The following text represents a loose translation of the introduction to an article which appeared in our sister publication, Nuova Mobilità – – on Tuesday. After this short introduction you will be able to click to the original posting in Italian or to a machine translation in English.

From NoAuto:

Over the years we have become accustomed to seeing television and other public advertisements showing cars in situations that are at least improbable, often dangerous, and certainly not appropriate for a sane and responsible society.

But can advertising policy and practices be redefined so as not to be misleading and frankly dangerous?

Yes it can. There are already limitations on advertising for other unsafe products such as cigarettes, dictated by the importance of protecting public health. Why not introduce similar limitations for publicity for cars?

Certainly when it comes to talking publicly and commercially about what is perceived as the most "common" means of transport, at least in the minds of many people in the Western world, we will do well to learn some of the lessons from the various campaign around the world which over the last decade have created significant constraints on advertising for (and public use of) cigarettes and other noxious tobacco products.

The benefits resulting in a decrease in cigarette consumption are widely recognized and now after years of work on the part of medical and public health interests accepted --while those arising from a change of travel behavior are in the collective imagination, at least thus far, counterbalanced by an alleged decline in the quality of life. This of course is sheer nonsense.

For this reason the non-profit Italian public interest group NoAuto, Association for Alternative Urban Mobility, is announcing a campaign to introduce specific limits on car advertising . It is hope that this could at the same time to boost publicity and reflection on more responsible products, services and strategies relating to the field of New Mobility.

The following is the statement of NoAuto's call for creation of a firm public policy concerning responsible advertising of cars.

* For the original Italian text, please click to

* For a quick machine translation into English -

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NoAuto is an Italian public interest association promoting a system of mobility alternatives to the car: MORE public transport, safety for walking and cycling, decreased congestion and pollution, reconquest of urban space, healthier lives, are among the objectives. Their weekly paper hosts a regular feature of the association.


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  1. Simon Norton, Cambridge UKSunday, 15 November, 2009

    Yes, we need restrictions on car advertising. How about a complete ban -- it's bad enough being surrounded by cars wherever we go, why do we have to have their images thrust upon us as well ?

    If not a complete ban, then let's at least set up the following guidelines:

    1. The car must always be promoted as a means of transport, not an ego trip, sex symbol or expression of power.

    2. The driver should be shown as choosing to use the car only because other modes of transport have failed, i.e. as a means of last resort.

    3. Advertisements should be required to say things like "cars kill" and "cars pollute".

    As for carshare, I think this will only reduce transport's carbon footprint significantly as part of an overall strategy which restricts car ownership, e.g. by charging full cost for residential parking, certainly as least as much per hour as is charged for visitor parking.

    Maybe car advertisements could depict drivers who express relief when they find the relevant model available for their use in carshare ?

    Simon Norton, Cambridge UK

  2. Richard Layman, Washington DCSunday, 15 November, 2009

    Some things aren't worth addressing, this is one. If car advertising were banned, newspapers would go out of business, and so would national broadcasting networks, at least in the U.S.

    Car advertising is the largest source of advertising revenue for newspapers, local television, and national television.

    As any media economics textbook starts out "a media outlet (television, radio, newspaper, magazine, etc.) is in the business of providing audiences to advertisers."

    I am not willing to let newspapers go out of business. Or at least I am not willing to pay $5/day for my local newspaper...

    Richard Layman, Washington DC

  3. Mark Lobjoit said...

    I was flabbergasted when I saw this one, coming as it did not long after a government sponsored road-safety spot:

    At the end it says: "While Speedville is a fantasy, the Mitsubishi Colt is real"

    While this kind of thing is happening, there is a long, long way to go...

    Mark Lobjoit lobjoit (at) gmail (dot)com

  4. Simon Norton, Cambridge UKMonday, 16 November, 2009

    In reply to Richard, if the media are underpinned by car advertising (and I am not disputing this), won't this skew their editorial policies against New Mobility solutions ? Not completely of course, but sufficiently to offer a considerable handicap to those campaigning for such policies.

    Simon Norton

  5. There comes a point when the social costs of particular advertising categories become too high and governments start 'darkening' them by regulation to limit exposure. As happened with cigarettes, and is starting to happen with fatty foods - in the UK there are limits on when these ads can be broadcast and the type of claims which can be made - and with spirits. It's completely plausible that cars will follow them into this space unless there is a degree of self-regulation first.


    Andrew Curry

  6. Sujit Patwardhan, Pune IndiaTuesday, 17 November, 2009

    Someone should lodge a complaint with the Advertising Council which is supposed to be a watchdog organization to control offensive and deceptive advertisements. will try to locate some activists working on the noise pollution issue. I didn't find the email ID of the person who wrote about this first - Rutul Joshi from Ahmedabad, but will locate someone who will do the honours.
    Sujit Patwardhan, Pune India

  7. Chris Bradshaw, Ottawa CanadaWednesday, 18 November, 2009

    I didn't see posts tying to car advertising to carsharing.

    Those who carshare don't have any use for advertising. And if carsharing were to become the dominant form of car-access, advertising would decline in quantity and what existed would have to focus on the advantages of personal ownership over sharing. This shift would be due to most cars being bought by fleet buyers interested in reliability over performance, and such advertising would occur in other media.

    I agree that, in the short run, advertising should be required to include warnings, such as: "Danger to self and others increases with distance and speed driven." Cigarettes and medications now require these.

    Chris Bradshaw, Ottawa Canada


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