TfL official asked to digitally remove cyclist’s close overtaking from suspended $ 1.3 million TV commercial
A senior Transport for London (TfL) official wanted to digitally edit a road safety TV commercial after it came under harsh criticism on social media. The ad was removed from TV screens and Twitter in early December. Nonetheless, the manager of TfL sent an email to the agency creating the ad saying, “I’m sure we’ll be back in January. . ”
“It’s fucked up, it must fall,” replied an executive with the London advertising agency VCCP, who went on to say that the removal was “to bow to the minority”.
VCCP was paid $ 517,060 to create the ad, with a budget from TfL to spend $ 1.34 million on the entire campaign.
The emails between TfL and VCCO were discovered through an Freedom of Information request I submitted earlier this month.
The 60-second TV commercial has been scheduled to air for some time on ITV and other TV channels, and $ 67,486 has been budgeted for movie screenings, another FoI claim reveals. There was also to be a poster campaign costing $ 133,187.
The âSee Their Sideâ road safety ad was taken down on December 1 and replaced with a less controversial one in pre-booked TV slots.
The ad showed a driver and a cyclist yelling at each other after the motorist dangerously passed the cyclist. The couple reconciled, but critics, especially cyclists, accused the ad of “blaming the victim.”
The ad first aired on November 17 and promoted on social media by TfL and VCCP. The ad has since been removed from the VCCP web page and TfL documents.
Shortly after its launch, cyclists and road safety groups criticized the ad for promoting “false equivalence,” meaning road users should share equal responsibility for road incidents. . Instead, the TV commercial made it clear that the motorist was at the most at fault in overtaking when she should not have done so, an often fatal maneuver known to cyclists and police as a “close pass.” .
At 1st December, Will Norman, the London Mayor’s cycling and walking commissioner, tweeted that the campaign would be “suspended to take into account the comments received”.
Redacted emails included in FoI’s request reveal that TfL officials whose name was redacted were concerned that the plaintiffs were correct in saying that the motorist’s move was illegal and should have been reported in the lane. ‘announcement.
A TfL official asked the advertising agency if the ad could be digitally edited to remove evidence of the dangerous exceedance.
“People have the impression that the cyclist / driver altercation is presented as a ‘nearby passage’, which is illegal under the highway code,” said the TfL official, adding that “this follows from the shot of the film … where you can see the geography of the car, the cyclist and the road.
The manager of TfL asked that “if we wanted to change this slightly to not show the geography, how fast can we do it and what would it cost? [sic] need to edit and restock? ”
The VCCP executive said the assembly would take a week and involve manipulation to “touch up the sidewalks on the right side.”
It is believed that no digital retouching has taken place and that the TV advertising suspension is permanent.
TfL and the London Mayor’s Office were contacted for this piece, as was VCCP.
“Road safety awareness campaigns targeting multiple audiences, which attempt to simultaneously address perceived behavioral issues among drivers and cyclists, generally end up creating a false equivalence between different road users,” said Duncan Dollimore. , campaign manager at Cycling UK.
âThe result is usually a rigged message of ‘share the road’ instead of focusing on risk and reducing road danger. ”
He added that any subsequent digital manipulation of the ad would “involve digging a bigger hole.”
“I am shocked that [TfL] didn’t ask cyclists for advice on how this ad might appear from a cyclists’ perspective, âsaid Mike van Erp, who tweets as @cyclingmikey and reports dangerous driving he captures on his tracks. on-board bicycle cameras.
Erp, who takes care of a young person with Down’s syndrome, added: âI would be disgusted if TfL resuscitated this ad, it is awful and false.
Simon Munk, Campaign Manager at London Cycling Campaign, said:
âThe announcement did not communicate the supposed central objective of the campaign, which is that collisions with vulnerable road users are not inevitable. His approach was not in line with behavior change programs that work, and the advertising did not clearly target the greatest sources of road hazard as a priority, which is at the heart of the Vision Zero approach.
He added: âMoney would have been better spent modifying the roads to make them safer, especially given the TfL funding crisis. It was a huge waste of time and money. We desperately need drivers to reduce unsafe behavior and we need TfL to act by prioritizing the greatest source of road danger first and quickly with rigor, using proven methods.
It’s not just transport cyclists and cycling organizations who say the ad was wrong. AA President Edmund King told me, âIt’s a shame the campaign wasn’t better thought out because the goal of breaking down barriers between road users is something we’ve been advocating for for many years. years. Knowing the sensitivities of these issues, it seems odd that it was not disseminated further in focus groups made up of a cross-section of influential road users before its launch.
Calling the idea behind the campaign “well-intentioned,” Kind added that running the ad could, indeed, be “interpreted as a disclaimer”.
âThe big loser here is road safety,â he concluded.
FoI documents revealed that the mayor’s walking and cycling commissioner was not involved in the campaign brief or signing the ad. Instead, the main managers involved were five executives from TfL’s behavior change team. The announcement was officially signed by Miranda Leedham, Head of Client Marketing and Behavior Change at TfL, Gabriella Neudecker, Director of Clients and Revenue, and Vernon Everitt, General Manager of Clients, Communications and Technology.
The See their Side ad was part of the mayor’s “Vision Zero” campaign, calling for zero road fatalities.
An October 2019 publicity brief that TfL gave to VCCP said: âVision Zero is a priority for the mayor, but it needs to garner wider support and adoption within TfL. ”
The brief also stated that TfL wanted its campaign to be adopted nationwide by the Department of Transport (DfT).
“A bare question [sic] in mind, if we wanted to bring this issue to national attention, it was DfT’s lack of support for Vision Zero as a concept, âTfL’s brief continued.
“It is not something currently [the DfT] support and therefore we must take this into account if we are to broaden the scope of this work.
The file indicated that he wanted the advertising agency to promote the “bicycle rather than the car”.
“If we can make the roads and the transportation system safer, it will likely encourage more people to walk and cycle on their journeys,” the original document said.
It is not revealed in the FoI emails how the ad agency and its nominated filmmaker used this file to create an ad that many cyclists referred to as a “blaming victim”.
Three days before the campaign was suspended, TfL asked a market research firm to conduct focus group interviews worth $ 6,748 with motorists and motorists who also cycle. Those chosen to participate in the panels, a briefing said, must not have had “a close friend of a relative killed or seriously injured in a traffic accident.”