By on October 12, 2011

The idea that environmentalists in this country are waging a “War On Cars” has gained some currency within the right wing in recent years, fueled by the Obama Administration’s increased emphasis on public transportation and cycling. Of course, statistically speaking, the car is proving more than capable of defending itself, as sales and ownership levels remain improbably robust (in per-capita and per-GDP terms) despite the recent “Carmageddon.” But GM waded into the fray anyway, running the anti-cycling ad seen above in several campus publications (via bikeportland.org), likely in hopes of fighting against the kuruma banare phenomenon that began with Japanese youth abandoning cars and has progressed to a full-blown national love affair with bicycles. But cyclists are a passionate bunch, and GM’s ill-advised ad prompted a torrent of Twitter protests (see for yourself), eventually causing the automaker to apologize and pull the ad.

GM’s Tom Henderson tells the LA Times

The content of the ad was developed with college students and was meant to be a bit cheeky and humorous and not meant to offend anybody. We have gotten feedback and we are listening and there are changes underway.  They will be taking the bicycle ad out of the rotation…. We respect bikers and many of us here are cyclists.

In other words, this is the ultimate proof that outsourcing ideas to consumers is lazy and ineffective. A good marketer would have instantly seen the problem with this entire ad concept and tossed it (and the Deans Lister who came up with it) as soon as he saw it. There are basically two reasons to bicycle: because you have to or because you want to. Those who have to bicycle can’t afford new cars, while those who want to cycle are going to be alienated by any slight to their passion… especially from a company like GM. In other words, an ad like this is not only ineffective, it exacerbates the nascent antipathy to automobiles among young people.

And make no mistake: automotive ambivalence among young people is growing. As someone who lives in America’s cycling and hipster capital, I can confirm that carlessness is cool… and cycling as a lifestyle choice is even cooler. As I wrote two years ago

Historically, America’s youth have flocked to Automobiles as a tool of personal freedom, an escape pod from the world of adult responsibilities and a way to connect with other young people. Today, these crucial marketing values have been stood on their heads.

If a young person does buy a car, it’s almost always because they need it for their job. Though debt, insurance, maintenance and speeding tickets are the real-life downsides of auto ownership, the crucial issue in the uncooling of cars is the image of car ownership as a a complex of obligations all of which add up to less freedom. The automobile has become a tool for connecting people to their responsibilities, a symbol of debt and talisman of that youth anti-icon, the beaten-down, middle-aged commuter. And what’s less cool than that?

This perception has only increased in recent years, fueled by a cultural “perfect storm” of generational changes. Indeed, today I’m even less optimistic about the car’s cultural relevance than I was when I concluded

America will not stop being the giant, spread-out country in which cars are the major mode of transportation. But the fact that there are nearly as many cars as people in this great land means that the auto industry is ultimately a victim of its own success. Still, if the industry is able to connect with the values that are leading young people away from automobiles, there’s a chance to check this trend.

But it won’t be easy, because young peoples’ expectations of automobiles are actually rising. If automakers are able to offer vehicles which can embody fun, freedom, practicality, efficiency and timeless design, there’s a chance to refocus the youth market’s desire onto automobiles… Recapturing the cool is a major task for the automotive industry, and fighting this perfect storm of cultural changes won’t be easy. This is a marketing, development, design, and technology challenge that makes getting consumers to consider GM look like, well, child’s play.

And yet, ironically, here is GM flaunting its complete ignorance of this crucial cultural dynamic with a single ad. And not for the first time. A 2005 ad that ran in the Vancouver area displayed the same out-of-touch insecurity, bashing public transportation and offering a Chevrolet Cavalier as its alternative.

Despite GM’s recent breathless enthusiasm for marketing to the under-30 “Millenial” set,  these two ads prove that the company’s ability to understand and market to young, car-ambivalent people hasn’t improved in the last six years. If anything, bashing bikes is worse than bashing public transportation because of the immense enthusiasm for cycling and its health and environmental benefits. The fact that a significant number of cyclists choose the two-wheeled lifestyle for political reasons make even a relatively minor slight from a multinational automaker all the more tone-deaf. Rather than mocking cyclists, automakers should be appropriating the bicycle’s cultural appeal with ads showing cars and bicycles coexisting in a youthful lifestyle.

With Millenials on the verge of becoming the majority of the car market, GM needs a massive gut-check if it hopes to have a chance of understanding and addressing the “uncooling” of cars. A potent symbol of the social and economic reality of being a young person today, bicycles are fundamental to that understanding. In fact, I’d argue that bike rank second only to handheld devices as a symbol of youth culture. Cars, meanwhile are dropping off the list, not because of an environmentalist agenda or hostile White House but because of the changing conditions facing young people today. Until the car industry wakes up to that reality, blunders like this one are inevitable, further driving the wedge between the industry and the young people it’s desperate to reach.

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92 Comments on ““War On Cars” Watch: GM Bashes Cycling, Apologizes...”


  • avatar

    nothing new as most GM marketing is ineffective and a waste. sometimes though they do break from that norm and actually do damage. at least we longer have Maximum Bob shooting his mouth off at cyclists as he did environmentalists.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    I have a bike and I ride it often, both for recreational and practical uses. In nice weather, I’ll commute to work or run errands with it.

    I like having a dead-silent and flexible transportation tool that can be used on virtually all surfaces, will fit in narrow spaces, be carried up stairs, and is almost impossible to break. It’s a handy piece of equipment, but I don’t see it as being a “lifestyle”.

    Uptight/militant biking advocates are among the most obnoxious people I deal with regularly. Yes, I’m riding a bicycle. No, I don’t care about your “cause”.

    Sure, this is a bad advertisement cooked up by incompetent marketers. But if it actually offends you then you care way too much.

  • avatar

    Didn’t Audi get lots of protests after running an ad showing cyclists in a negative light last year? It seems nobody learns anything. And it was only recently that every car maker was offering an own-branded bicycle as a way to attract buyers to cars. BMW, Porsche, VW and Mercedes-Benz all had bicycles and I was even in a bike race once where somebody was riding a Cadillac road bike!

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      When I look up “Audi Bike Commercial”, the Q5 ads that show up seem to cast bikes in a quite positive light, suggesting that an Audi would fit in the lifestyle of a cyclist.

      Perhaps there was one that they pulled?

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    GM don’t got no cojones.

    Never had.

    Never will.

    (I’m a car lover and have had scads of ‘em – and still do. However, I’ve also got a couple of bikes and a motorcycle. They’re all fun, and all have their purposes. Were I to live a few miles from work on reasonable terrain, I’d commute via bike. But I don’t, and I won’t.)

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I really like this editorial. I’m Gen Y, bit of a greenie, not a cyclist though (I take the train to work, and drive a low-displacement sports car on the weekends). I’ve had my share of negative run-ins with cyclists, but the ad still bothers me.

    For one thing I was once a have-not with a beater I was ashamed to be seen in, so the broader concept of mocking one’s form of transportation is not endearing. Two, that cyclist doesn’t look like someone who’s ashamed of cycling. Three, I associate cycling with exercise and fitness… I’ve always figured that you’d WANT to hit on a cyclist.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Is the bus ad an ad from a local dealership?

  • avatar
    240SX_KAT

    Not only did GM insult mass transit, that yellow thing on the front of the bus is a bike rack. Double points!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Meh. And I say this as a someone both pinko and green who bikes regularly.

    These ads are reasonably on-target. They’re funny, and yes, they’re mildly offensive. What they don’t do is offend anyone who would be buying a GM car anyway, or who might be influenced by someone who would.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      I agree.

      The only outrage I can see is the craven advertisers at GM who caved yet again. Just shows that they can’t make a decision and stick with it, just like with so many other things.

      Bicycling indeed can suck under many circumstances, like when it’s +30 or -30 or there’s a torrential downpour.

      I think too much is being read into this ad. I find the blatant materialism, from the “oh now this girl won’t sleep with me” angle, more objectionable.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        There’s good reason for not sleeping with an avid cyclist.

        For one, if you bike enough and have a poor seat, you end up with temporary nerve damage that causes erectile dysfunction.

        For another, avid cyclists smell funky. Spandex+sweat+hours of friction = Pfhew!

      • 0 avatar

        For one, if you bike enough and have a poor seat, you end up with temporary nerve damage that causes erectile dysfunction.

        In theory or on a stationary trainer, yes. In practice on the road when you’re constantly moving around and getting up out of the saddle to accelerate it rarely happens.

        For another, avid cyclists smell funky. Spandex+sweat+hours of friction = Pfhew!

        I’m pretty sure they have showers in Canada, don’t they?

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        It’s not nerve damage – it’s compression of the penile artery that limits blood flow to the penis. (Women can also suffer simlar injury, especially on a narrower men’s saddle, which makes it that much more important that women buy gear built for women.)

        For younger men, arteries are elastic enough that impotence is rarely seen from cycling. Rather, it’s the middle-aged who are the most affected. However, saddles have been designed to protect that area for over a decade now.

      • 0 avatar
        toxicroach

        Ronnie, I dunno about that.

        After I did a 60 mile ride, my junk felt like it was half asleep for three days. I mean I was still combat effective, but it was pretty disconcerting. I have a decent saddle, but it absolutely can happen on a real bike.

        The ad would have been a lot more effective if had shown a guy in the rain or snow or something.

    • 0 avatar
      Acubra

      A rare case of me actually agreeing with Psar.
      People have become totally boring with their ever-hurt sensitivities.
      It will not too long before some enlighted souls will be offended with rain wetting their clothes or some such.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the bus ad is funny, if politically incorrect, and the only people who will be offended personally are those who can’t afford cars. College age cyclists, on the other hand, are going to be buying cars at some point, a lot of them at least. When they do, some of them won’t bother to look at GM. (I lived carless until I was in my early 30s, rode a bicycle all over, but almost never used public transit, even in rain and snow.)

  • avatar
    car_guy2010

    It’s not a generational problem.

    It’s the cost of purchasing a vehicle and keeping up with maintenance costs and debt responsibilities.

    Most people my age can’t afford newer vehicles. My car is 13 years old and still kicking. I just turned 30 and I’m going to start looking for a replacement. I’ve had this vehicle for over 3 years now.

    I personally detest bicyclists but I would never publish an ad that denigrates them. We do have to share the road and I do my best.

    • 0 avatar
      fred schumacher

      Cost is the major problem. College costs have exploded and most young people in college are already carrying a huge debt load. Frankly, there is no new car market for college students. Forget it. They can’t afford a new car.

      New cars are an expensive substitute for having a personal relationship with a good mechanic. I’m 62, and I’ve never owned a new car and never will. My children have bought only one new car between them, and that was for my daughter-in-law, who is an anxious driver.

      People who bike either have to or want to. The ad is not going to change that reality one iota and only manages to antagonize young people. It shows an ad agency out of touch with reality.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    The cute female driver does a perfect trollface, I wonder if GM had an audition?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)

    Leave it to a Portland bike blog to get fired up with righteous indignation; I can almost picture a v-neck shirted, mustachioed hipster scoffing at this ad and swearing never to buy a GM product. I chuckled at this ad and my bikes are worth more than my car.

  • avatar

    Once upon a time when GM sold most of the buses too, they wouldn’t have denigrated their own products like that.

  • avatar
    Britspeak

    Wow. You could spend all day, every day examining GM marketing brilliance and still not do it justice. What a noble, proud company.

  • avatar
    Marko

    One thing that bugs me about these “anti-car” cycling “hipsters” (well, there are many more) is that they conveniently ignore the fact that in many parts of the country, there are these little things called “heat waves”, “blizzards”, “dirt roads”, and “rural areas”.

    Folks, most of the US is nothing like Portland…

    And no, I don’t have anything against cyclists. I just bought a nice new bike, and I use it for its intended purpose. I don’t currently own a car, but that is because I really don’t have a choice (limited, expensive parking where I go to school). I will probably be buying something used and inexpensive when I graduate…

    • 0 avatar
      A Caving Ape

      Actually, Portland has a huge number of dirt roads inside city limits- far more than most urban areas. I’ve certainly bounced my way down plenty of really horrific blocks on my road bike.

      http://wweek.com/portland/article-17460-dirt_roads_dead_ends.html

      We have heat waves and blizzards too. And rain, of course, which if you ask me is worse than anything else to bike through.

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        Any icy roads in the winter? Steep hills? (I’ve never been there, but it just seems like a much more bike-friendly place than most parts of the US.)

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        Icy roads are a non-issue with good studded tires. Steep hills are a non-issue with a full range of gears.

        I’ll take a sunny -30C bike ride over a rainy +2C ride any day!

      • 0 avatar
        Slow_Joe_Crow

        @Marko yes Portland gets ice on the streets, and has lots of steep hills. This makes for some interesting Youtube footage, most recently the Volvo XC90 playing car pinball near the Multnomah Athletic Club in 2009ish. Fortunately average winter temperatures are above freezing so with good gear, fenders and fortitude you can ride all winter. Some people actually enjoy it so much that the Cross Crusade is the largest cyclocross racing series in the country.

    • 0 avatar
      steeringwithmyknees

      I live in Chicago and there are tons of crazies who bike through the winter (especially in my hood)–which, here feature a fine mix of sleet, snow, freezing rain, ice, blizzards, snowpack, slush, salt, idiot drivers, crowded streets, idiot pedestrians on phones, plows, taxis, buses, instant potholes, and bone chilling wind.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      there are these little things called “heat waves”, “blizzards”, “dirt roads”, and “rural areas”.

      I went to college in a “rural area” with all those things, and got around exclusively on an old mountain bike for four years. I don’t often agree with CJ, below, but public transportation in that area sucked so bad that bicycling through blizzards and heat waves was preferable. Frankly, cycling through snow isn’t that big a deal if you know how to wear warm clothing, which is a skill that most people pick up in New England.

      My commute now is longer and hillier than it was then, and I actually have enough money to buy, fuel, maintain, insure, and park a car (and a motorcycle, too), so I only cycle recreationally now, but insulting a potential customer is still no way to make a sale. The ad isn’t Offensive with a capital O, but it is “dickish”, and it doesn’t make me more likely to buy their cars, which, for a car ad, is kind of critical. (And, dickishness aside, what kind of cycling college student wants to buy a half-ton GMC Sierra?!)

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Really GM? After all the nice things I’ve said about you?! Somehow “Let’s insult a few million people” doesn’t strike me as a great strategy, but I’m not in advertising. The ads are kind of funny, but sometimes it’s better just not to go there. Now where did put my v-neck?

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    The Cavalier ad is spot on. There is nothing worse than mass transit. Even creeps and weirdos would be happier with cars, and the Cavalier was just the car for their demographic.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      Nothing worse than mass transit? Sure there is. For me that would involve buying another car with all the costs that entails, paying a monthly parking fee for a remote lot, and then having to take a bus from said lot to my work place anyway. Public transit is a dream for me and saves me thousands. Not everyone lives is unsustainable over subsidized suburban neighborhoods.

      • 0 avatar
        MoppyMop

        Nothing worse than mass transit? Sure there is.

        For example, paying $178 a month for the privilege of driving a Cavalier.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        Not defending subsidized suburbs one iota.

        But mass transit is heavily heavily subsidized too. At about the 75% level.

      • 0 avatar
        Brunsworks

        @Dynasty, the Interstate Highway System is also a subsidized system. Not aligning myself against you, but just pointing out that many useful large-scale developmental infrastructure items are subsidized. I just wish my suburb were walkable. We have quite a few of those little round memorial signs on half-signposts on the main arteries.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Sometimes mass transit sucks and sometimes it’s fine. I rode the train for 12 years. The railroad itself improved over the years but the riders got worse and worse. Rudeness, cell phones, loud iPods, talkers…when I received a promotion I got a car with it. Relief at last…two years later, driving in traffic gets to me. I found a monthly train pass for October on the ground. A four hundred dollar find. I’m taking a break from traffic. After doing both, I’d have to say I prefer to drive more, but a horrid day of traffic is worse than a bad day on the train…

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      CJinSD,

      Um, have you even ridden a bus lately? At least here in Seattle, the vast majority of the bus riders are commuters who take the bus to and from work, like me – and yes, I DO drive but I do it to save gas and to prolong my aging truck’s life until I can replace it.

      It may not be as bad as you think.

      BTW, the buses I ride are clean and quite free of graffiti too.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        I used to commute via the bus when I lived in Seattle from Ballard to downtown on the 17X. And yes, that was a fine bus ride.

        However, if you happen to live in South Seattle, it would be a whole different experience that might make a Cavalier for 178/month a nice proposition.

        Ha, I remember one bus occasion probably back in 2003 I was riding a bus from downtown up to First Hill and a man wearing a trench coat and a really loose pair of pants boarded. He made it about five steps down the aisle and dropped his pants. Picked them up, took a couple more steps and flashed everyone a second time. It was pretty funny, actually.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      As far as hipsters go, they exist in just as many numbers in the NE, like NY for instance in some of the boroughs.

      I happen to live in Seattle where we have a decent mass transit system that encompass the entire central Puget Sound region through various local transit systems from Community Transit in Snohomish County (north of Seattle), Metro in King County/Seattle, Pierce Transit in Pierce County (South of Seattle) and Kitsap Transit in Kitsap County (West of Seattle, across Puget Sound) and a regional transit system known as Sound Transit that ties all of these transit systems together and they all use the same electronic card and reader called the Orca card. It seems the mass majority of the riders are commuters (like me as I ride the bus as often as I can to and from work), commuting from one city to another or from the suburbs to the city and there are buses, light rail and a commuter rail that spreads from Tacoma to Everett.

      And even the Washington State ferry system is in on the transit plan and I think the Orca cards work there too.

      I ride Metro transit to and from work and live in Seattle where I can walk or bus to wherever I need to, and yet I have my aging truck to get around when public transit isn’t practical, like trips to Mom’s or doing errands where it’s too far to walk, ie Costco, Target and other places I need to shop at that aren’t near downtown Seattle and/or need to go to multiple places and not have to take all day to just accomplish that task(s).

      I’ve seen what happens when a professional bike messenger gets all bent up over me “cutting” him off when he was actually darting in and out of and around traffic and didn’t like the fact that I pulled out into his lane as he whipped around a car from it’s rear and tried to let me have it when I had to stop for a light and he actually threw his bike down to yell at me. the SOB.

      I’ve also seen what happens when people simply forget that they are riding in a road that has vehicles and literally ride way out in the lane so drivers have to go around them and these are not really pro bike riders and it WAS on a residential street in N. Seattle, in the Greenwood area.

      While I have no objections to those who DO ride their bikes, but please, be realistic here. If you don’t follow the rules and have respect for the automobile, then you are bound to get hurt or severely maimed or worse by your arrogance so lay off on the guilt and let us exist peacefully and the reverse is true of those of us who drive.

      I walk all all over when I don’t have to drive or take a bus but by the same token, drivers of cars should be aware of pedestrians and cyclists as well as the other way around. This IS a two way street.

      As for the ads, I don’t think they were well thought out and play on old, broken stereotypes to sell what is at the time a has been vehicle (the bus and selling a Cavalier, long after it’s been on the vine to rot).

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    The bus ad is valid, up to a point. The bus is mainly filled with creeps, wierdos, winos, etc. Most US cities have poor bus service. It takes up a lot of your time to go by bus and you better not have to travel “after hours”.

    Even so, I suspect most bus riders who ride out of economic necessity would be better candidates for a used car, rather than a new one.

    To me it looks like the woman in the bike ad wants to get into the guy’s lycra shorts.

  • avatar
    aspade

    Some day, somewhere, just once, I’d like to see a company find the balls to say no to the professionally thin skinned for a change.

    It’s just an ad. Yeah it failed at being funny. Not like the other five hundred you’re barraged with every day don’t fail just as hard.

    Bikers don’t need a corporate apology. They need to get over themselves.

    Bunch of spandex covered fruitcakes who think they’re Lance Armstrong while obstructing the road.

    • 0 avatar
      Acubra

      +100500!

    • 0 avatar
      Amendment X

      Screw the hipsters.

      Pull the ad? Bunch of PC nonsense.

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps our frames of reference differ, but I had much more trouble with garden variety byciclists than with the dudes in reflective spandex. Who crosses the streets as they please, ignore STOP signs, run on the median, ride in bicycle lanes against the traffic? Not the spandex tribe!

      Spandex people become dangerous and violent when they gather into a mob. They call it “massive action” or something like that, but actually it simply is a rioting mob on bicycles. When that happens, only tear gas and water cannons are appropriate. But otherwise, I’d rather deal with spandexoids. They share the road when alone.

  • avatar
    Acubra

    The first one is really witty and stomps on all the right spots in the sensibility of the self-righteous brigade (which are never too shy to insult).
    Way too bad they’ve backtracked.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I’d just like to remind everyone that GMC sells a TON of buses to public transit, especially hybrid buses – and they’ll even toss in a bike rack for extra coin.

    Ducking now.

  • avatar
    Madroc

    Chevy: Better than not owning a car at all.

    Pretty compelling stuff.

    The point of this article isn’t that it offends (some) cyclists, or even that it fails generally. It’s that it shows that GM still doesn’t get it. In the eyes of the typical ‘millenial’, a typical cyclist is higher-status than the typical Chevy driver. Does that pickup come with a fake scrotum and a Urinating Calvin window cling, or are those sold separately? This ad does nothing to address that problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Chevy: Better than not owning a car at all.

      I coulda sworn that was the tagline for Citation advertising.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        Funny you should mention that. My younger brother had a Citation in high school. It died crossing a bridge one day and was rear-ended while sitting with the flashers on. It never was a reliable car, and he’s never owned a car since. He walks and cycles. I wonder if that car killed his desire for the automobile!

      • 0 avatar
        Brunsworks

        Now, the Toyota Yaris “It’s a CAR!” campaign does pretty much exactly the same thing–except I’ve driven a Yaris, and I wound up buying its big brother, the Scion xB.

    • 0 avatar
      M.S. Smith

      “Chevy: Better than not owning a car at all.”

      You hit the nail on the head as to why this is a marketing disaster.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    I know hipsters are everywhere at the moment (why???), but they do tend to congregate on the left coast, even up here in Canuck land. I wouldn’t jump to conclusions and say that hipsters and their irritating bicycling ilk make up a majority of young folk.
    Just remember Ed, for every west coast, tragically dressed, bearded, bicycle riding hipster who shops/works at Whole Foods, there are an equal if not bigger number of normal ‘yoof’ who do actually aspire to own a car or just need one for everyday life.
    I think that the biggest killer for young people buying cars is not crappy advertising or even the cost of buying the car itself – it’s the extra monthly outgoings like maintenance, fuel and insurance which stack up to the point where owning a car can sometimes eat nearly 25% of your monthly wages. Then you’ve got to find somewhere to park, people break into it… ugh. It gets to the point where it becomes more hassle than fun owning a car. When that happens, no one is interested in cars.

    • 0 avatar
      M.S. Smith

      Saying that “hipsters are everywhere” doesn’t actually mean anything. A hipster isn’t really a thing and never was. It’s just this really vague, mildly insulting term that’s applied to…well, people that we don’t like. You know. THOSE people.

      But I agree with your comments about why young people don’t think cars are cool. The fact is that your average young person today does not have anywhere near the disposable income of a young person in the 1950s. We have to pay for big student loans and big health care bills off stagnant wages.

      Basically, the consumer is being bled dry.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      for every west coast, tragically dressed, bearded, bicycle riding hipster who shops/works at Whole Foods…

      Those people can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods. Processed tofu ain’t cheap.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        True. Whole Foods is the province of high-end-yoga-gear-wearing, Merc-GL-driving powermoms.

        Hipster cyclists rock the farmer’s market. I know this because I am one.

      • 0 avatar
        Sinistermisterman

        Maybe Vancouver BC has a different species of Hipster. Up here they’re either Faux-Hipsters who are infact trust-fund yuppie-spawn (who shop at Whole Food) or they are Faux-Hipsters who eat at McDonalds. Either way, they all drink crap beer.

  • avatar
    skor

    I own two cars, 3 bicycles and a motorcycle. I’ve seen it from all sides. Cycling is not really a transportation option in most parts of the US, and won’t been anytime soon. The cyclists that really annoy cagers are not hipsters, but the Lance wannabes. You know the spandex dudes who look like they are riding the Tour de France, when they’ve never ridden anything more challenging than the Tour de Hackensack.

    Motorcycles are strictly toys with none of the benefits of bicycles. They’re not really transportation either, but they are the most fun you can have with your pants on.

    In most parts of the US, cars will continue to be…for better or worse…the main mode of personal transport for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t excuse the above GM ad…it comes off as a desperate and petty to get attention…..any kind of attention. Weak, just really weak.

    • 0 avatar
      chaparral

      I have pretty much given up my car in favor of a Honda VFR781.

      Among the benefits of motorcycling against driving are parking half a mile closer to my destination, being able to ride at walking speed down sidewalks to get where cars can’t, roughly double the gas mileage (40 city, 60 highway), and the ability to get to the lane you want away from every stoplight. The benefit of a motorcycle against a bicycle is simple: safety. A bicycle cannot go 70 into the wind, so you cannot keep your rear clear. The disadvantages primarily have to do with bulky, hot, stinky clothing that doesn’t add up to one star on a NHTSA crashtest, and expensive tire changes. It’s a practical way to knock some time off a commute and save on gas, parking, and depreciation. It’s also as much fun as you can have on the road with your pants on.

      • 0 avatar
        Robstar

        ++. I live in the Chicago suburbs and did 9k miles on my gsx-r 600 (including a 3 day trip of 800 miles to see a friend) last year while doing only ~ 6k on the car. This year it’s reversed due to heavy rain….but a motorcycle is infinitely more practial than a bicycle for getting around.

        I don’t yet own a bicycle as my wife thinks they are too dagnerous for local roads (45mph where people go 60 with almost no shoulder) and I don’t have a bike rack yet on my car to get the bicycle to somewhere that I can actually ride at.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Hardcore cyclists are tedious. Their whining shouldn’t have any impact on a marketing campaign.

    But it is surprising how lousy GM’s marketing is, especially when one considers that GM practically invented automotive marketing.

    Domestic boosters seem quite fond of slamming the competition. Sorry, but that’s just bad strategy. Nobody is going to buy a GM car because an advertising executive is trying to convince us that the alternatives suck. Even the most gullible among us know better than to believe that.

    GM ads should make a point of telling us why GM cars are “good.” “Good” can be defined as a combination of dependability, reliability, and a general lack of unpleasant surprises, combined with styling cues that are, at the very least, not embarrassing.

    Good is not defined by a single feature, an award provided by some unknown car rating service, or by saying that somebody else’s product is inferior. Those messages are just not very compelling.

    It’s better if that news of that “good”ness is communicated by a regular person who seems to own one, rather than by an anonymous narrator who simply claims that it is good. Testimonial ads are boring, but they provide what someone who is spending a lot of money wants to hear — some reassurance that this expensive purchase isn’t going to prove to be an embarrassing, irritating and costly mistake.

  • avatar
    Thinkin...

    Has anyone clicked on over to the website that ad is touting? TOTALLY ABSURD. They’ve advertising discounts on six models targeted at college kids. Like the $36k Buick Enclave. Because everyone knows that’s the number one ride college kids are lusting after and/or buying right now.

    As it turns out – yes the marketing folks at GM have it all wrong, and it has little to do with the bikes and busses in their ads.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      If you click around a bit it says that any 2011 model is allowed as long as it isn’t a Volt or Cadillac. Which raises the question of why the ad shows a 2012 Sonic?

      The .pdf of the “GM College Discount Program”, which is a link on the current website, is from 2009 and hilariously includes Pontiac on the letterhead.

  • avatar
    turtletop

    Combo plate here: a herd of 3 cars, 4 bicycles, and I live in the fabled cyclist valhalla of Portlandia. I commute to work on a bicycle (15 miles round trip, rain or shine), but have no shame hopping in a car afterwards to get some groceries or to see a pal. So, a little something for each side to get irritated about, right?

    If GM is going to bother putting out an ad like that, however obnoxious it may be, they should have the balls to stick with it. Pulling it because of some complaints is worse than useless; it just irritates and alienates both extremes. Waaaaay to go, GM.

    Which kinda leads me to my point: enough with the pissy attitudes about bicycles and/or cars already. Don’t politicize my ride, please. Let’s give each other a break and learn to be a little more patient, tolerant and considerate of others no matter what they’re riding in or on. Don’t let a handful of careless wankers ruin it for the rest of us, be they on two wheels or four.

    Now, so far as that ad goes, not one of the 30 or so cars I’ve owned has ever gotten me laid. But riding my bicycle has.

    GM had to pay that woman to put on the trollface, you know.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      “Don’t politicize my ride, please. Let’s give each other a break and learn to be a little more patient, tolerant and considerate of others no matter what they’re riding in or on. Don’t let a handful of careless wankers ruin it for the rest of us, be they on two wheels or four.”

      Totally agree!

    • 0 avatar
      CC_Stadt

      Thank you! You and a few others above make the point that so often gets lost in these inane ‘bike vs. car’ debates, namely that a whole lot of cyclists are also drivers. And fewer also-cyclist drivers, I would bet, are likely to be cognitively blind to cyclists on the road than are non-cyclist drivers, which can only help safety.

      Negativity is bad marketing, yes, but it is also annoying more generally. And not particularly funny, at least to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Sinistermisterman

      Wow, first time I’ve read the word ‘wanker’ in a long time. I didn’t think it existed outside of the British Isles.
      But yes, politicizing ones ride only leads to an even more bitchy attitude amongst road users, and commuting is hell enough without having to go ‘Mad Max’ on each other.

    • 0 avatar
      Dekinorman

      Thank you! I ride to work all year long, wearing lycra often. I ride for fun, for fitness and for convenience. I own 2 cars as well, and buy more car mags than cycling ones. Riding my bike is not a political action, and by taking my place on the road it is not a statement, but a legal right and responsibility. Let’s respect each other on the road; it’s dangerous enough out there without having people bring their prejudices along for the ride.

    • 0 avatar
      Brunsworks

      Normally, I’d post “this” or “+1,” but I think I’m just going to give your viewpoint a good old-fashioned “Hell, yeah!”

  • avatar
    mdub523

    As a member of the GM’s apparent target audience, I think the car-ambivalence of young people is being exaggerated in this post. Yes, I’m currently posting on a car site, so I’m clearly a little more interested in cars, but being car-less is still a little lame (outside of cities) to a lot of people my age. No, car ownership is probably (from what I gather) not as big of a deal as it once was, and yes if you’re a fit cyclist you can still probably score, but you will catch crap, particularly on a non-urban campus, for not having a car.

    There are still a lot of young people who don’t live in cities and can justify a car. They don’t need to ask for rides, they can visit friends in other towns, they can pick up a girl on a date, they can get to work without leaving an hour early.

    Maybe college kids aren’t as in to cars as they once were, but cars still represent freedom, and even in trendy urban 2011 girls can still be heard saying, “wow, you’ve got a really nice car” (note: this comment has never been directed towards me)

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Shhh, GM thinks they were the heroes in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      @John Horner: funny

      @Ronnie Schreiber: You’re right on target. Hipsters ride fixies in the street to seem cool to other hipsters. Roadies use gears on the roads. Mountain bikers like-a da dirt. And like with automobiles, then there’s everyone in between……

  • avatar

    I could be wrong, but I’m not sure how much overlap there is between hipsters and serious cyclists. My guess is that most serious cyclists only ride fixed gear bikes at the velodrome and that your average fixie riding hipster sees little in common with a lycra clad roadie or mountain biker.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      I would say that depends on the region. Here in semi-suburban Atlanta, I’d estimate 90% of the cyclists I see are doing it for exercise/recreation. Nobody is on a damn fixie. Even the commuters on comfort bikes have a cassette in the back. The microscopic amount of practicality provided by a fixie is negated by the heavy traffic in my area.

      I’ve been a semi-serious road cyclist for 8 years and determined the only overlap I have with the stereotypical hipster cyclist is the health benefits, and the fact that we both like riding bikes.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      I’m not a cyclist but I’ve had the fixie argument with many a hipster (I live in a very hipster heavy neighborhood on the east coast). I used to ride a fixie with no brakes in Amsterdam. Makes sense. The entire country is flat. The only way it could be more flat is if it were the ocean. Which it was.

      Whenever I see a hipster huffing up a hill (more likely walking) on his fixie, I think to myself, “What’s wrong with you?”

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    @PCH101: You’re right that testimonial ads are both tedious and ridiculously outdated. One happy owner says a lot more about a product than 25 paid shills. This is where social media is the strongest opportunity for marketers, yet the one many just can’t seem to embrace seriously.

    The fact that GM still thinks ads like these are effective when they wouldn’t look out of place in a Seventies issue of Time or Newsweek shows just how out-of-touch and clueless they are at RenCen.

    As a cyclist, I find the ads repulsive but agree that GM really went all dickless when the feedback was negative. If Lt. Dan really wanted to impress U.S. taxpayers, he’d fire Joel Ewanick.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The last time I rode the Lynx bus in Orlando I got Hepatitis.

    …And my bike is probably still stuck under a RAM 3500 somewhere.

  • avatar
    Syke

    On this end: One Porsche, one pickup truck, four motorcycles (Triumphs, Harley and vintage Honda), and (so far) 17 bicycles. Plus a completely equipped bicycle shop on the property, 40+ years experience as a mechanic, and I’ve done (and do) everything short of brazing my own frames.

    I found the ad a tired chuckle, and somewhat clueless. I find the “I’m offended” attitude of the hard-core bicycle crowd utterly pathetic and more annoying than the ad. And trust me, those who are offended by the ad wouldn’t own a car in the first place.

    Hipsters and their fixies? They’re not riders. Their tragically hip idiots with the latest urban costume jewelry. And we, in the vintage bicycle crowd, hate their guts. You don’t wanna see what’s been hacked to make one of those fixies.

  • avatar
    Brunsworks

    If someone decides whether to date you based on your transportation, you don’t need ‘em.

    Run what you brung. If you don’t need a truck to get where you’re going, don’t drive a truck.

  • avatar
    redav

    I somewhat doubt that these ads do much damage for GM. They aren’t targeted at the ‘offended’ group (and it is likely they may never see them depending on where they run). There is considerable bike-hate in this country, so much so that it is possible that bike bashing will resonate with more people than it will drive away.

    It also has to be remembered that advertising is for more than selling a particular car, e.g., my impression of Ford is in part formed by their ads for the Mustang, despite the fact I have no intention to buy one.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    “Cotton…The fabric of our lives.”

    Large iconic companies have, for a long time, run ads that seek to promote the basic demand for the very idea of a product category.

    It is akin to a paper company planting trees that won’t be harvested for another 40 years.

  • avatar
    jj99

    Don’t think the ad hurts GM sales. A hipster would never buy an American car. They tend to buy older Japanese vehicles.

  • avatar
    kumicho

    So… As someone who was actually offended by this ad (and took a while to figure out exactly why), here’s how I see it: GM is trying to appeal to a certain segment of the population by deliberately ridiculing another segment. While this isn’t new or novel, the problem is that that second segment is HUGE. Everyone who goes to college in a large (or even medium) city knows that bikes are far faster, cheaper and easier to own than a car. I’d guess that the percentage of students at NYU (for example) who own cars is minuscule. This ad falls flat on it’s face in such areas, as no one is going to be dreaming of owning a car in downtown Manhattan.

    I’d also bet that the percentage of students at Westchester Community College (~30 miles north of New York City) who own cars is massive. No on-campus housing, and students travel there from miles around for classes. Here (obviously) a car is not only “cool” but practically a necessity.

    The problem I have with the ad is that GM is perfectly fine ridiculing every single person in the first category (along with those of us who live in or close to an urban environment, close to work/school/shopping and choose to use a bike for transportation) just to try to appeal to the second. It’s letting us know that GM really doesn’t care about offending us, as long as they can appeal to the people in the middle of the country who would choose to buy a GMC Sierra 1500 pickemup truck on a student discount. It’s completely missing the fact probably 99% of college students (including those in urban areas) will own a car at some point in their lives, and deliberately pissing off 1/2 of them isn’t exactly smart marketing…

  • avatar
    Yeah_right

    Reminds me of Chevy’s dreadful Howlie Long series of ads, particularly the one where he was bashing Honda by pointing out that they also make lawn mowers. My Honda powered lawnmower is still in my garage. My 2005 supercharged Pontiac Grand Prix is stinking up someone’s auto auction after I unloaded it for a new Nissan.

    Extremely hip niche companies with a very specific demographic can use sneering as an effective ad technique. The lumbering dinosaur that is GM should stick to “Like a Rock” and other inoffensive fluff. Their “edgier” ads are like learning that your parents also like Wilco.

  • avatar
    amac

    I resisted car ownership until the age of 42. The “cool” and “carefree” appeal of cycling lost its cachet a long time ago. Unless you cycle for leisure or are able to commute on bike paths or side streets, cycling in the city is just plain dangerous. I used public transit for decades but that too eventually became inadequate, and cash-strapped cities are having a hard time upgrading their transit systems to meet the demand. Having a car IS freedom and the benefits far outweigh the expense. Maybe one day I’ll live someplace where I don’t need a car, but until then…

  • avatar

    As a hardcore cyclist, I am not bothered much by this ad and think it is foolish to make much of a fuss about it. On the other hand, the world’s biggest producer of bicycles has enjoyed poking fun at GM with this: http://www.goinggoingbike.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Giant-Ad.jpg

    Of course, Giant can afford to laugh. Unlike GM, it has made piles of money for the last decade.


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