Are advertising standards killing motorcycles?

Remember advertising with motorcycles doing wheelies and burnouts and bikes draped in near-naked women?

Changing attitudes and the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) have virtually wiped out this sort of advertising.

Has this taken some of the thrill and sex out of motorbikes? Could this be contributing to the downturn in sales, particularly among younger people?

The motorcycle industry doesn’t seem to advocate a return to sexist and irresponsible advertising.

In fact, the industry is now so socially responsible about advertising motorcycles there were only two complaints to the ASB this year and both were dismissed.

Advertising complaints

One was for a motorcycle industry ad and the other was for an insurance company.

The IAG Insurance ad depicted a man riding a motorcycle to shops repeating “milk and toilet paper” over and over. He then stops to urinate on a tree before continuing to ride to shops.

It’s actually a scenario many male riders could associate with having been caught short while out on a ride.

The complainant said: “Public urination is illegal, offensive and unhygienic.”

In its reply, the advertiser said the “tone of the spot was light hearted and humorous in nature”.

The ABS panel considered whether the advertisement was in breach of Section 2.6 of the Advertiser Code of Ethics (AANA) concerning Health and Safety Unsafe behaviour.

It states: “Advertising or Marketing Communications shall not depict material contrary to Prevailing Community Standards on health and safety.”

The panel dismissed the complaint saying there was no nudity, the audio was discrete and “the inference of a man urinating in a deserted Australian bush area when appropriate facilities are not available would not be considered by most members of the community to be against Prevailing Community Standard”.

Good to know!

Another dismissed complaint this year concerned a Geelong Motorcycle Service Centre ad on the back of a bus featuring a motorcycle doing an “irresponsible” wheelie or mono while wearing jeans.

Peeves wheelie advertising
You mean like this?

The company said the ad was artwork that depicted a rider with appropriate protective riding gear including protective motorcycle jeans.

ABS found that the ad did not breach the code concerning Health and Safety Unsafe behaviour.

They considered that “a still image of a motorcycle stunt being performed in a fantasy situation is not a depiction in this instance which most members of the community would consider to be unsafe or against prevailing community standards”.

This compares with the judgement to uphold two complaints in 2017 for print ads for Volley sand shoes that showed a couple siting on a motorcycle and not wearing helmets.

advertising standards killing motorcycles
Volley ad

Other products promoting motorcycling is good for our industry as it promotes motorcycling as an adventure.

However, the complainant lodged their concern on the grounds that it is misleading with regards to safety and irresponsible given the efforts by government and other groups to encourage motorcyclists to wear adequately protective clothing”.

“Indeed, in relation to helmet it could be seen as encouraging people to disregard the laws.”

The ABS found that the ad did breach the code.

Some of the other complaints in the past few years have consisted of sexism, unsafe riding, not wearing helmets, and even a Transport Accident Commission motorcycle safety ad that was “too graphic”.

Motorcycling is sexy and thrilling which is easy to advertise, if the bureaucrats will let you.

It also has a lot of practical virtues, but they don’t make good ads.


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