Advertising Standards Authority upholds a 'hazardous cycling' complaint against Coca-Cola

Powerade TV bike ad deemed dangerous by ASA

A TV ad for the sports drink Powerade, distributed by Coca-Cola, featured a man who was training for his first triathlon. The ad showed different scenes of him riding his bicycle on the road. It appeared to be either early morning or dusk; the vehicles shown in some scenes had their headlights on.

A complainant challenged whether the ad could be seen to condone behaviour prejudicial to health and safety, because the cyclist was not wearing reflective clothing and was not shown to have lights on his bicycle. There were no other complainants, just this one.

Ad maker McCann Erickson, responding on behalf of Coca Cola, explained that the ad was one in a series that followed a man training for his first triathlon. They said the ad was filmed in a ‘fly on the wall’ style and explained that the method of shooting meant that they filmed without using traditional lighting equipment.

McCann Erickson told the ASA that the ad was filmed during the afternoon in late March but said the lack of lighting equipment made it seem as though it was later in the day. They assured the ASA that safety precautions were taken when filming the ad and said, at the time it was filmed, the cyclist was visible to passing traffic. McCann Erickson said the ad was no longer being broadcast and there were no plans to show it again.

The Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) said they did not consider that the ad was suggestive of danger, nor did they consider that the scenes depicted in the ad were in breach of the Highway Code and they had approved it on that basis.

However, the ASA upheld the complaint: "We considered that viewers would not be aware of the lighting aspect and were likely to believe that the ad was filmed in the early morning or at dusk. We considered that, because it appeared to be dark in some scenes and because, in many scenes, the traffic around the cyclist had their headlights on, the ad could give the impression that reflective clothing or lights were not required when cycling in conditions of poor visibility. We were concerned that the ad could be seen to condone hazardous cycling and therefore concluded that it breached the Code."

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