The Professional Advertising Regulatory Authority (ARPP) is an association that brings together representatives of advertisers, agencies, media, advertising agencies and media.
It makes recommendations for an advertisement "loyal, truthful, sane and respectful". Respect for these concepts is ensured by a "advertising ethics jury" (JDP) which examines complaints that can be filed "by any person, natural or legal, who considers that an advertisement disseminated would not respect ethical rules".
In mid-August, the JDP issued two decisions concerning two car ads on complaint from Ademe (Renault) and a particular (Toyota).
In a mailing praising the autonomy of the Zoe, Renault compared a bike ride and a car trip with this message "MME MOREL, by bike would be good, but we have better" in the subject line of the email. The idea was to put forward (by an implication) a range of 395 km, a distance which, we can agree, is not realistic by bike to get to work!
The comparison with the bike is only made in the subject line of the email, the text itself not referring to it with the following two hooks: "ZOE, are you taking me to work?" and "And you, how many kilometers do you do each week?" framing a photo of the vehicle.
However, the use of the term "better" was not to the liking of Ademe who esteems it "contrary to the principle of the veracity of actions". For Ademe, the message is not clear enough since it "does not explain the criteria on the basis of which she draws a comparison between the bicycle and the electric car Zoe". Ademe therefore considers that the recipients of this message are not able to understand its subtlety …
Ademe’s third argument is even more instructive about the die-hard nature of this complaint. He criticizes Renault's advertising for thwarting the efforts of the state by encouraging "the use of the car, which is the main factor in increasing greenhouse gas and nitrogen dioxide emissions, especially in urban areas". However, the point here is to encourage the use of an electric car for the purchase of which the government is currently distributing generous bonuses! Action that Ademe, as an agency "the environment and energy management", should be supposed to support.
The JDP, a jury composed of independent personalities (*), if it does not take up all the arguments of Ademe nevertheless considered that the complaint was founded with reference to a principle of the Advertising Code of Ethics which says than :
"Advertising must prohibit any representation likely to trivialize, and a fortiori promote, practices or ideas contrary to the objectives of sustainable development."
The jury ruled in favor of Ademe, considering that this advertisement was "likely to mislead the public as to the environmental impact of the Renault Zoé car, by minimizing them", And also that she "contributes to discrediting the use (of the bicycle) whereas it constitutes a solution commonly regarded as virtuous with regard to the protection of the environment".
In the Toyota advertisement, a radio message features caricatured characters who express their desires after two months of confinement: shopping for women ("I'll make up for eight weeks of shopping with the girlfriends"), meal at grandma's for the child ("I will go to granny's house because mum cooks badly"), desire to escape for men ("a midnight swim in the ocean, naked". "I leave my house and I throw the key"). The idea is to add the desire to buy a Toyota.
The individual's complaint (we do not know whether it is a man or a woman …) considers this advertisement to be "degrading for the woman because each sentence is stereotyped".
If we can imagine that these are clichés, we are not however in a degrading image since it is about shopping (fairly banal activity and even welcome for the recovery of the economy) or cooking ( we don't really see where the outrage is).
And yet, there again, the jury (**) considers the complaint founded because Toyota uses "a reductive stereotype in that it assigns gender to a function, thus reducing the role and responsibility of women and, indirectly, valuing sexist behavior."
These two decisions rendered by the JDP, although having no legal weight, led to the withdrawal of these two advertisements.
It is however regrettable that the members of the jury did not take up the irony and self-mockery of these messages instead of endorsing the fundamentalist reading of them by the plaintiffs. This literal reading to let only politically correct messages get through could well make the humor disappear from advertisements, this often being the result of caricatures.
One might even wonder if environmental protection still leaves the possibility of advertising cars …
(*) Mr. Lallet, President, Mrs. Gargoullaud, Vice-President, Mrs. Drecq and MM. Depincé, Lacan, Leers and Lucas-Boursier.
(**) Mrs. Gargoullaud, Vice-President, replacing the president unable to attend, Mmes Drecq and Lenain, MM. Depincé, Lacan, Leers and Lucas-Boursier.