Lunes, 23 Septiembre 2019 13:22

Drive responsibly, no matter what commercials say

A University of Cordoba study proves the lack of environmental commitment in car advertising and proposes a code of good practice for companies and their creative teams

European Mobility Week aims its campaign towards awareness of negative consequences of indiscriminate car use and the advantages of more sustainable modes of transport. However, consumers are currently bombarded with a radically opposite message. Car commercials tend to promote overuse of automobiles in cities, portray pedestrians and cyclists as second-class citizens and show cars driving around historic city centers and on motorways at full speed. Moreover, most commercials refrain from mentioning information on C02 emissions and other pollutants, or they do so in such fine print that it is illegible. Just as alcoholic beverage commercials follow strict rules in order to avoid excess drinking, shouldn’t car advertisements follow, at the very least, a code of good practice to encourage respectful behavior towards the environment?

This is the idea behind a study carried out by a research team at the University of Cordoba, made up of Gerardo Pedros, Pilar Martínez and Pilar Aparicio. The group performed a detailed analysis of car advertising in written and online press, a topic on which there is very little research to date. “We found that, in general, there is no concern for responsible advertising in regards to the environment nor for encouraging good habits among users,” says Gerardo Pedros, the study’s lead researcher. Though information on the environment is greater in these commericals than it was twelve years ago, it continues to be very dispensable.

Based on this study, the research group came up with a code of good practice. It is made up of seven general recommendations and 28 specific articles of good practice. Among them, for example, is the proposal that these kinds of commercials end with a warning to either use cars in moderation or use public transportation when possible. Also included are recommendations for suitable size of information on pollutant emission, the need to mention environmental taxes and the respect that these commercials should show toward cyclists, pedestrians and people using public transport.

The aim is that authorities will take this code into consideration and, along with car companies, negotiate responsible advertising as far as the environment is concerned. “If the brands would endorse it, they would be accepting part of the social responsibility as businesses,” says Gerardo Pedros.

Another proposal is to create a group that oversees advertising related to the environment. Spain already has agencies of this kind, that foster nonstereotypical images of women and immigrants. It would be tasked with keeping an eye on the media, performing analyses, classifying content and promoting guidelines that would ensure positive change to bring about reducing the effects of climate change.
Some years ago, the Environmental Ministry commissioned this research group with performing an analysis of the sectors of advertising that could have the greatest influence on climate change and saving energy. Though they are no longer receiving funding, the group has chosen to continue this line of research. “Now we are considering furthering our study of car advertising online and on social media, and analyzing how it affects young people,” reveals Pilar Martínez, one of the researchers.

Gerardo Pedros Perez, Pilar Martínez Jiménez, Pilar Aparicio Martínez. The potential of car advertising in pursuing transport policy goals: code of good practices in the Spanish context. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment. DOI: 10.1016/j.trd.2019.05.010

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